HomeNewsUS accuses top Paraguay politicians of corruption, spurring probe | Corruption News

    US accuses top Paraguay politicians of corruption, spurring probe | Corruption News

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    Paraguay’s ex-president and current vice president are under investigation for alleged corruption, charges they deny.

    Paraguay’s attorney general has launched a criminal investigation on Thursday into allegations by the United States that its former president and the current vice president were involved in corruption and had ties to a terrorist group.

    Paraguay’s Attorney General Emiliano Rolón Fernández said a team would look into the allegations that former President Horacio Cartes and Vice President Hugo Velázquez engaged “in systemic corruption that has undermined democratic institutions in Paraguay”.

    Cartes and Velázquez have previously denied the allegations.

    The US government, meanwhile, added three people to a list of Paraguayan officials it suspects of “significant corruption” and who would be barred from entry into its country, along with their family members. That list, started in 2019, now numbers nine officials.

    In January, the US issued explosive allegations that Cartes and Velázquez had ties to the group Hezbollah, which Washington has designated a “terrorist” organization.

    The US has long said the porous tri-border region that connects Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay is a hub for financing “terrorism”, through money laundering and illicit activity. The US has identified what it has described as members of Hezbollah who use front companies in the region to finance violence in the Middle East.

    The US government also accused Cartes, who it has described as one of Paraguay’s wealthiest men, of widespread bribery of government officials and lawmakers.

    The latest officials added to the corruption list were court clerk Vicente Ferreira and Edgar Melgarejo — the former director of the Paraguayan Civil Aviation Authority — as well as Jorge Bogarín, a member of a panel that disciplines judges and prosecutors.

    The designations came after the State Department “received credible information” that Melgarejo “misappropriated public funds for personal gain during his tenure”, according to US Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield.

    He also said that there was evidence Bogarín and Ferreira “interfered in judicial proceedings for their own personal benefit”.

    “Acts of corruption like these undermine the institutions, processes, and people’s faith in the ability of the Paraguayan government to serve its people,” Ostfield said on Thursday.

    Melgarejo told local media he was “surprised” by the designation and said he was unaware of the reasons behind his inclusion on the US corruption list.

    The investigation by Paraguay’s chief prosecutor also will look into claims of corruption involving Juan Carlos Duarte, legal adviser for the entity that runs the bi-national Yacyretá Dam that is jointly owned by Paraguay and Argentina.

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