Ten raids carried out in three Bolivian departments have resulted in the seizure of new evidence in the investigation around the tear gas case, in which authorities of the defacto coup regime received bribes and profited from the purchase of tear gas to be used to repress anti-coup protesters.
Real estate documents, documentation concerning the contracting of tear gas, bank deposit slips, computers, USB’s, credit and debit cards, firearms, ammunition and marijuana were among the items seized in the raids at homes and offices linked to the inner circle of high-level functionaries of Jeanine Añez’s Defense and Interior Ministries.
In a press conference on Saturday, Interior Minister Eduardo Del Castillo announced that four raids were carried out in each of the departments of La Paz and Cochabamba and two in Santa Cruz; “among the main goods seized are real estate documents, documents of the contracting of tear gas, processes of the Bus Rapid Transit acquisition (..) three vehicles, firearms, controlled substances, computers and various bank deposit slips, among others, were seized,” said Del Castillo.
Ex-Interior Minister Arturo Murillo and ex-Defense Minister Fernando Lopez have been at the center of investigations surrounding the embezzlement of state funds since at least October 2020. In November 2019, the two commanded over the violent repression of indigenous people, union members and other supporters of the legitimate President Evo Morales, on behalf of coup President Jeanine Añez.
A raid was carried out on the house of Murillo’s sister, Mireya Murillo, in which evidence in the form of bank deposit slips, USB’s, credit and debit cards were seized in the bedroom of her ex-husband Daniel Aliss. They also found firearms, ammunition and marijuana in Arturo Murillo’s room.
“A few days ago we presented the former brother-in-law of Arturo Murillo, Mr. Daniel Aliss Paredes, who had made four visits to Mr. Arturo Murillo’s safety deposit boxes (at BNB bank), withdrawing from the bank, large sums of money (…), it has been proven that all were emptied on April 15 of this year. Mr. Arturo Murillo, through his brother-in-law, would have withdrawn all his money, the product of drug trafficking and corruption,” Minister Del Castillo told media.
The Minister reiterated that the Bolivian government has the objective of recovering the money which was embezzled and stolen by the Añez’s regime which took power in a coup for personal benefit.
Raids were also carried out at the homes, property’s and/or offices of those who assisted in the Defense Ministry’s purchase, transfer of funds or related roles, including those of Fernando Rejas Trigo, Raúl Martín López González, Alan Edwin Menacho and Miguel Real, all of whom worked in or with Ministry of Defense during the coup.
In addition, raids were conducted on the home and law firm of Murillo’s ex-Chief of Staff Sergio Rodrigo Méndez Mendizábal as well as the home of Philip Lichtenfeld. Both men face charges along with Murillo in the United States. Another raid was conducted on the house of Murillo’s ex-Administrative Director, Sergio Alberto Zamora Bascopé, who sent the note from the Interior Ministry to guarantee the purchase of gases to the intermediary company.
Añez Authorized the Scam
Bolivia’s Ministry of Justice has reported that between November 29, 2019 and February 27, 2020, Jeanine Áñez, Arturo Murillo, Fernando López and other former Ministers, signed three decrees to justify the purchase of chemical agents and to dispose of a budget that was used for bribes and overpricing.
Áñez and her cabinet signed the Supreme Decree 4090 on November 29, 2019 that gave the Ministry of Defense authorization for the “exceptional acquisition” of tear gas for the National Police to repress mobilizations against the coup.
On December 12, 2019, Añez and her Ministers authorized the Ministry of Defense to carry out “direct contracting abroad” for the acquisition of tear gas (Supreme Decree 4116).
Finally, on February 27, 2020, the coup administration reallocated Bs 40,068,000 through Supreme Decree 4168 to acquire riot control agents. The payments which included the bribes and overpricing were made in March and April 2020, according to the Ministry of Justice.
According to the U.S. federal investigation, the intermediary company, located in the United States, made profits of more than US$ 2 million during the process, some of which was used to pay bribes to former Bolivian officials involved in the case.
Bolivian authorities have initiated proceedings for the extradition of Murillo and co-conspirators who have been indicted in the U.S. Department of Justice’s case. The Attorney General’s Office has also signaled that it will seek the extradition of Fernando Lopez who is currently a fugitive in Brazil.
Interior Minister Eduardo Del Castillo’s press conference can be viewed here.