Three Colombian citizens and two Venezuelans, including a Chavista high command, were accused by a Florida court of executing a corruption scheme that profited from importing food and medicine to Venezuela.
Among the defendants are Álvaro Pulido Vargas, a Colombian businessman, and José Gregorio Vielma Mora, a Chavista politician and military man who, among other charges, was governor of the State of Táchira, on the border with Colombia, between 2013 and 2017.
According to a communication from the United States Department of Justice, they are accused “for their alleged role in laundering the proceeds of a bribery scheme to obtain and retain inflated contracts through the Local Supply and Production Committee (CLAP ), a Venezuelan state entity, and a state-controlled food and medicine distribution program for the people of Venezuela ”.
The assistance programs of the government of Nicolás Maduro to face the shortage that soared between 2013 and 2017 have turned out to be, according to the US justice system, a nest of corruption that involved several Colombian citizens close to the Chavista leadership.
This week, perhaps the most prominent of these businessmen, Alex Saab, was extradited to the US after being arrested in Cape Verde as part of a broad investigation into corruption in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government rejects the accusations, has launched an international campaign to “rescue” Saab and says that it is all part of a judicial and political persecution that tries to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution.
Scarcity, a vehicle for corruption
Although the US justice investigates the two corruption schemes as separate processes, Colombian media have reported the closeness of Colombian businessmen to Saab.
One of them, Carlos Rolando Lizcano Manrique, is considered the right hand of the businessman extradited six days ago.
And the corruption scheme attributed to them is practically the same as that of Saab: contracts to import food and medicine that were priced at a premium and granted through bribes to Chavista officials that were paid in international bank accounts.
As a result of the corruption scheme, the so-called “conspirators” allegedly received US $ 1.6 billion Venezuela and transferred approximately US $ 180 million in bribes.
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