Paraguay’s ex-president and current vice-president are under investigation for alleged corruption – allegations they deny.
Paraguay’s attorney general has launched a criminal investigation into allegations by the US government that the country’s former president and current vice president were involved in corruption and associated with a violent group.
Attorney General Emiliano Rolón Fernández said Thursday a team would investigate allegations that former President Horacio Cartes and Vice President Hugo Velázquez involved in “systemic corruption that has undermined democratic institutions in Paraguay”.
Cartes and Velázquez have previously denied the allegations.
The US, meanwhile, has added three people to a list of Paraguayan officials it suspects of “significant corruption” and who, along with their family members, are being banned from entering the US. That list, started in 2019, now counts nine civil servants.
In January, the US launched explosive allegations that Cartes and Velázquez had ties to the group Hezbollah, which Washington has labeled a “terrorist” organization.
The US has long said the porous tri-state region connecting Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay is a hub for “terrorism” financing through money laundering and illegal activities. The US has identified what it has described as members of Hezbollah using front companies in the region to fund violence in the Middle East.
The US also accused Cartes, who it has described as one of Paraguay’s wealthiest men, of widespread bribery of government officials and legislators.
The latest officials to be added to the US corruption list are clerk Vicente Ferreira and Edgar Melgarejo – the former director of the Paraguayan Civil Aviation Authority – as well as Jorge Bogarín, a member of a panel that disciplines judges and prosecutors.
The clue came after the U.S. State Department “received credible information” that Melgarejo “embezzled public funds for personal gain during his tenure,” according to U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay Marc Ostfield.
He also said there was evidence that Bogarín and Ferreira “interfered in legal proceedings for their own benefit”.
“These acts of corruption undermine the institutions, processes and people’s confidence in the Paraguayan government’s ability to serve its people,” Ostfield said Thursday.
Melgarejo told local media he was “surprised” by the appointment and said he was unaware of the reasons behind his inclusion on the US corruption list.
The investigation by Paraguay’s chief prosecutor will also look into corruption allegations involving Juan Carlos Duarte, a legal adviser to the entity that manages the binational Yacyretá dam, jointly owned by Paraguay and Argentina.