CARACAS – Venezuela’s new attorney general Tarek William Saab said on Wednesday that the corruption allegations leveled by his predecessor against President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials of the ruling socialist party lacked any legal validity.
Saab was referring to remarks Wednesday in Brasilia by Luisa Ortega, who said she had evidence implicating Maduro and other top officials in a massive bribery scandal orchestrated by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
“We’re talking about an ex-attorney general who obviously was removed from her post for serious moral and ethical violations,” Saab told reporters in Caracas, reiterating allegations that Ortega led an extortion ring during her 10 years in office.
He criticized Ortega, who distanced herself from the ruling party earlier this year, for waiting a decade to publicly accuse top Venezuelan officials.
“Ten years later and outside the country you’re going to come talk about what you didn’t do, about what you were complicit in ... whatever might be said by an ex-attorney general who in nearly 10 years did not take any action against any of the officials she’s now talking about is completely invalid,” Saab said.
Ortega broke from the president a few months ago amid institutional conflict between the opposition-controlled unicameral legislature and a Supreme Court aligned with the government.
Like Venezuela’s opposition and many foreign countries she also is a harsh critic of the recently created National Constituent Assembly (ANC), a plenipotentiary body that Maduro says is necessary to end a deep political and economic crisis and bring peace to the country after months of deadly opposition-led protests.
Ortega said Wednesday at the opening of a gathering in Brasilia of prosecutors from the countries that make up the South American trade bloc Mercosur that she had evidence implicating Maduro, ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela lawmaker Diosdado Cabello, Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez and others in the Odebrecht scandal.
She added that she had been persecuted in Venezuela for investigating whether top Venezuela officials accepted bribes from Odebrecht.
(Odebrecht and petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty last December and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland arising out of their schemes to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.)
The ANC voted unanimously earlier this month to sack Ortega, who subsequently fled to Aruba and then Colombia, and replace her with Saab.
“Now she’s a global tourist. We’ll have to see who’s logistically supporting all those trips with an ever-growing entourage,” Saab said of her travel to Colombia and Brazil.
Ortega says the purpose of the visits is to deliver evidence of crimes involving top Venezuelan officials.
Although Saab says his predecessor should have presented that evidence in Venezuela, Ortega insists the courts in her homeland are subordinated to the executive branch and therefore pursuing such cases was not a viable possibility.