Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Maduro used illegal cash: Chavez campaign exec

‘POOPOOTOV’ COCKTAILS:A Venezuelan official said jars of human feces that are gaining in popularity among anti-government protesters are ‘chemical weapons’

AP and AFP, BRASILIA and CARACAS

A political consultant has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of paying her US$11 million in cash to cover the costs of the 2012 re-election campaign of his mentor, former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, using money that she says was illegally provided by Brazilian companies.

Monica Moura, a Brazilian who ran the Chavez campaign with her husband, made the accusation in a plea bargain testimony that is part of Brazil’s probe into a bribery scheme at the state oil company Petrobras.

She alleged most of the cash given to her by Maduro came from Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez.

The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment on the accusations, which were made public on Thursday by Brazil’s Supreme Court.

In one excerpt from her testimony, prosecutors said Moura had said that “Maduro welcomed her in his own office, gave her binders with cash and offered her guards for the trip between the foreign ministry and her producing company.”

At the time, Maduro was Venezuela’s minister of foreign affairs under Chavez, who died in 2013 while still president.

Spokesmen for Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez declined to comment on her testimony, but said the companies are cooperating with Brazilian investigators.

Odebrecht has admitted in a plea deal with US prosecutors that it paid hundreds of millions of US dollars in bribes across Latin America for help in winning public works contracts.

Moura is married to Joao Santana, Brazil’s most acclaimed political campaigner. They are partners in many political consulting firms, including Polis Caribe, which was involved in the Chavez campaign.

No documentation for her allegation was presented with her testimony, but Moura said in one excerpt that she has evidence of her claim, including data on Swiss bank accounts allegedly used by the Brazilian companies to pay the money funneled to her by Maduro.

“Odebrecht paid about US$7 million in connection with the work delivered by Polis Caribe, and Andrade Gutierrez paid US$2 million through Swiss banks in an account named Shelbill, in connection with the value of the political project of the campaign” for Chavez’s re-election, Moura said.

In February, Moura and her husband were sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for money laundering in a separate case tied to the Petrobras probe. They were released on bail as they wait for a decision on an appeal.

Moura also made accusations against former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that shoeboxes filled with cash were used to pay for her services in his re-election campaign in 2006, and that her company was illegally paid with about US$3.5 million (at current exchange rates) during Silva’s campaign.

Half of that amount was paid by Odebrecht, she said.

Moura said her company illegally received more than US$53 million from both candidates and from construction firms outside of Brazil.

Separately on Wednesday, Venezuelan anti-government protesters who have been throwing human excrement at riot police during demonstrations are using “chemical weapons,” a senior Venezuelan official said.

Venezuelan Judicial Inspector-General Marielys Valdez made the statement on Wednesday after protesters hurled jars of feces called “Poopootov cocktails” during the latest in weeks of clashes in Caracas.

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