Former Bolivian minister pleads guilty to bribery

NEW YORK (HPD) — Former Bolivian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to launder thousands of dollars in bribes a Florida-based company paid him in exchange for helping it secure a contract to provide tear gas to the Bolivian government, the US Department of Justice announced.

Murillo, 58, who was arrested last year in the United States, received at least $532,000 in bribes. He was part of the government of former interim president Jeanine Áñez.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Murillo and his accomplices laundered the proceeds of the bribery scheme through the US financial system, including bank accounts in Miami, Florida.

Murillo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The Bolivian was one of the main voices of the Áñez government that took power in November 2019 after President Evo Morales resigned amid violent protests questioning his re-election for a fourth consecutive term.

However, the campaign against the left in Bolivia failed and nearly a year later, Morales ally Luis Arce was elected and proceeded to imprison Áñez and other officials linked to her.

The Florida-based company, not named in the news release, was awarded a roughly $5.6 million contract to provide tear gas and other non-lethal equipment to the Bolivian Ministry of Defense.

The company was allegedly owned by Bryan Berkman, a Bolivian-American citizen who purchased the tear gas in Brazil for much less than $3.3 million, according to an affidavit from a Department of Homeland Security agent accompanying the documents. judicial.

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