CARACAS – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) unanimously decided on Thursday to withdraw parliamentary immunity from Chavista lawmaker German Ferrer, the husband of former Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, for his alleged links to an extortion network.
The proposal was submitted to a vote by the plenary assembly of more than 500 members, all of them supporters of the Nicolas Maduro government, by ANC member Diosdado Cabello, who said that Ferrer’s case contained the proper conditions whereby his parliamentary immunity could be withdrawn “immediately” and he could be “brought to justice.”
Ferrer “is at this time being put on trial for acts of corruption, criminal association, legitimizing capital, financing terrorism and extortion,” said ANC First Vice President and former Maduro legal adviser Elvis Amoroso.
On Wednesday, Venezuela’s new attorney general, Tarek Saab, called for house arrest for Ferrer just minutes after a group of ANC delegates demanded the cancellation of his parliamentary immunity and his arrest.
“Since the crime was flagrant, this citizen should be deprived of his freedom, placed under house arrest,” Saab told reporters, adding that he had already requested of Supreme Court chief Maikel Moreno the drafting of an arrest warrant for Ferrer “while the process to remove his parliamentary immunity begins.”
A few minutes earlier, Cabello had requested Ferrer’s arrest for allegedly heading an extortion network that operated within the Public Ministry while Ortega was attorney general.
Saab said that he would request that the constitutional assembly begin the process of removing Ferrer’s parliamentary immunity, along with starting to arrest prosecutors at the Public Ministry “who were part of that dirty operation that shamed the Venezuelan nation.”
The new AG, who was appointed by the constitutional assembly, displayed several documents allegedly verifying that Ferrer opened several accounts at banks in The Bahamas, adding that the “extortion network” that operated from the Public Ministry has accounts totaling more than $6 million.
Saab said that authorities will investigate the alleged creation of a foundation and a “corporation abroad ... to legalize the funds produced by the extortion” scheme, adding that “we’re talking about a transnational mafia.”
He also accused Ortega – during the more than nine years she headed the Public Ministry – of transforming the institution “into a place where instead of fighting especially serious crimes such as corruption, money laundering, ... and organized crime” it became a “blackmail and extortion center.”
Ortega was fired on Aug. 5 by the constitutional assembly, which accused her of committing “immoral acts,” a move that the former AG said was one further step by the Nicolas Maduro government toward establishing a dictatorship.