Jeanine Añez’s former Interior Minister, Arturo Murillo Prijic, has been sentenced to 70 months in prison in the United States for the crimes of international bribery and money laundering, from a multi-million dollar tear gas purchase scheme in 2019.
Bolivia’s state prosecutor, Wilfredo Chávez, informed of the sentence against the former strongman of the de facto Añez regime.
Murillo was apprehended in May 2021 and has been held at the Federal Administrative Security Detention Center in Miami Dade County, Florida.
He pleaded guilty on October 20th, as did the rest of his accomplices, Philip Lichtenfeld, brothers Bryan and Luis Berkman, and Sergio Rodrigo Méndez Mendizábal.
According to court documents, Murillo received at least $532,000 in bribe payments from a Florida-based company in exchange for helping that company secure an approximately $5.6 million contract in 2019 to provide tear gas and other non-lethal equipment to the Bolivian Ministry of Defense. Murillo and his co-conspirators laundered the proceeds of the bribery scheme through the U.S. financial system, including bank accounts in Miami. Murillo received approximately $130,000 in cash bribe payments at a family member’s home in Miami.
Murillo was part of Unidad Nacional, party of businessman Samuel Doria Medina. Before being sworn in as Interior Minister, he announced a hunt for “masistas”: “As soon as I am sworn in and I meet with the Police (…), we are going to go hunting Juan Ramón Quintana, because it is a hunt, this is an animal that is killing people in our country, we are not going to allow it (…). Now I am going to operate with the Interior Ministry and those people should start running, because we are going to catch them”.
Shortly after the inauguration of President Luis Arce, Murillo went on the run and fled the country.
Añez’s strong man acquired a batch of tear gas for the Bolivian Police from the Condor company, through the North American intermediary Bravo Tactical Solutions LLC (BTS) for a price of $5.6 million – overpaying by $2.3 million.
The Bolivian government initiated a civil lawsuit before U.S. courts against Murillo and his accomplices to recover the lost money for the purchase of tear gas.
In this process, the Bolivian State seeks the return of the surplus amount paid for the tear gas ($2.3 million in its entirety), and reparation for the damage caused.
By Kawsachun News with information from ABI