Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bolivia: Interior Ministry Lawyer, Five Others Arrested for Soliciting Bribe from Jailed US Businessman

According to the Interior Ministry, a senior government attorney and five other officials were arrested on Monday (November 27) on charges that they demanded US$50,000 from New York City businessman Jacob Ostreicher, 53, who was arrested by Bolivian authorities in June 2011 on money-laundering AND has yet to be tried in a court of law, albeit archaic. 

COMMENT: Please review my previous postings of September 24, 2011, December 31, 2011, May 14, 2012, May 19, 2012 and August 9, 2012 for background.

Ostreicher came to Bolivia in 2008, to start a rice plantation in the eastern province of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, he failed to conduct adequate due diligence on the people he was working with, resulting in his being jailed in June 2011.

As an example of what the criminal justice system is like in Bolivia, the Interior Ministry's director of legal affairs in the Interior Ministry, Fernando Rivera, overseeing Ostreicher's case, was arrested on Monday as a result of his attempting to extort US$50,000 from the jailed American.

To make matters worse, Mr. Ostreicher has been in police custody most of the last 18 months without being charged or prosecuted, although as a sufferer of Parkinson's disease, he has been treated most recently in a Santa Cruz clinic.

Although the US Embassy in La Paz has reportedly been "following Ostreicher's case very closely for the last 18 months," the embassy's efforts have failed to resolve the American's plight or even bring legal nonfeasance to the attention of his Congressional representatives in Washington.

Given Rivera's arrest and complicity in soliciting a bribe from the American, by now the Embassy should have called in some "markers" to pressure the Bolivian government to either immediately prosecute Ostreicher or release him and permit him to go home to his family. He has surely suffered enough.

As I have often said to American citizens traveling, working and living abroad, if you get into a legal jam, depend SOLELY on your own resources, as getting help from one's diplomatic representatives can prove to be very, very elusive, if not impossible.