The former governor of Puerto Rico Wanda Vazquez has been arrested for bribery in connection with her 2020 campaign funding, and if convicted, could face up to 20 years in prison, US officials said.
In one statement On Thursday, the US Department of Justice said Vazquez, 62, allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme between December 2019 and June 2020 with a number of people, including a banker of Italian descent. Venezuela, former FBI agent, bank president and a politician. advise.
“The alleged bribery scheme has risen to the highest levels of Puerto Rican government, threatening the public’s confidence in our electoral processes and governance institutions,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth. A Polite, Jr. said in the statement.
“The Department of Justice is committed to accountability to those who wrongly believe that there is one rule of law for the powerful and another for the powerless,” Polite said.
During the day #Puerto Rico:
-FBI arrested former Governor Wanda Vázquez
– Seven crimes, including bribery
-Also charged: Julio Herrera (prez Bancrédito) and Mark Rossini (former FBI agent)
-They promised to fund her campaign in exchange for firing the Commissioner of Financial Institutions
– Angélica Serrano-Roman🇵🇷 (@angelicaserran0) August 4, 2022
The development comes after Vazquez’s attorney told reporters in May that the former governor was preparing for possible charges. She has denied any wrongdoing.
“I can tell the people of Puerto Rico that I didn’t commit any crime, that I didn’t commit any illegal or incorrect behavior, as I’ve always said,” Vazquez said in May. .
According to the Justice Department, the political consultant, identified as John Blakeman, and the president of an international bank, identified as Frances Diaz, pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme.
In early 2019, the bank owned by Julio Martin Herrera Velutini was scrutinized by the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions of Puerto Rico.
Authorities say Herrera and Mark Rossini, a former FBI agent who provided consulting services to Herrera, are believed to have promised financial support to Vazquez’s 2020 gubernatorial campaign in exchange for jobs. Vazquez dismissed the commissioner and appointed a new one chosen by Herrera.
Authorities said Vazquez accepted the bribe offer and in February 2020 requested the commissioner’s resignation. She then allegedly appointed a former adviser to Herrera’s bank as the new commissioner in May 2020. Following the move, officials said Herrera and Rossini paid more than $300,000 to investors. political consultant to support Vazquez’s campaign.
After Vazquez lost to Pedro Pierluisi, authorities said Herrera then allegedly sought to bribe him to end an audit of his bank on terms favorable to him. Herrera allegedly used intermediaries between April 2021 and August 2021 to give bribes to a representative of Governor Pierluisi, who was actually acting on orders of the FBI, according to the indictment.
Officials said Herrera then ordered a $25,000 payment to a political action committee in the hope of finding a way to bribe Pierluisi.
Stephen Muldrow, US Attorney for Puerto Rico, said Pierluisi was not involved in the case.
Vazquez, Herrera and Rossini were all charged with conspiracy, bribery of federal programs and honest service fraud. If found guilty on all counts, they could face up to 20 years in prison, the Justice Department said. Meanwhile, Diaz and Blakeman could face up to five years in prison.
Muldrow said officials believe Herrera is in the UK and Rossini in Spain. It is unclear whether the US will seek their extradition.
In one statement On Thursday, Pierluisi said his administration would work with federal agencies to help fight corruption.
Pierluisi said in a statement shared on his twitter account: “Today we see again that no one is above the law in Puerto Rico.
“We must all unite against this social evil and, under my stewardship, have zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.
Vazquez is the second woman to serve as governor of Puerto Rico and the first former governor to face federal charges. Former governor Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged with campaign finance violations while in office and was found not guilty in 2009. He is the first Puerto Rican governor to be charged in recent history.
Vazquez sworn in as governor in August 2019 after former governor Ricardo Rossello step down next big rally. She serves until 2021, after losing the pro-state New Radical Party primaries to current governor Pierluisi.
Vazquez previously served as the island’s attorney general and a district attorney for more than 30 years.
Shortly after being sworn into office, Vazquez told the AP that her priorities were fighting corruption, securing federal hurricane recovery funds and helping to lift Puerto Rico out of a deep economic crisis as the government’s government The government struggled to get out of bankruptcy.