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Saturday 22 July 2017

Venezuelan President Maduro 'used illegal cash for Chavez campaign'

There was no immediate comment from Nicolas Maduro or Venezuela's government (AP)
There was no immediate comment from Nicolas Maduro or Venezuela's government (AP)

A former political consultant has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of paying her 11 million US dollars (£8.5 million) to cover the costs of the 2012 election campaign of Hugo Chavez, using money she says was provided illegally by Brazilian companies.

Monica Moura, a Brazilian who was running the Chavez campaign with her husband, made the accusation in plea bargain evidence that is part of Brazil's probe into a huge bribery scheme at the state oil company Petrobras.

She alleged most of the cash given to her by Mr Maduro came from major Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez.

There was no immediate comment from Mr Maduro or Venezuela's government about the accusations, which were made public by Brazil's Supreme Court.

Ms Moura told Brazilian authorities that Mr Maduro gave her binders filled with cash at his office when he was Venezuela's foreign minister under Mr Chavez, his predecessor as president.

Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez spokesmen declined to comment on her evidence, but said the companies are co-operating with Brazilian investigators.

Odebrecht has admitted in a plea deal with US prosecutors that it paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes across Latin America for help in winning public works contracts.

Ms Moura is married to Joao Santana, Brazil's most acclaimed political campaigner.

No documentation for Ms Moura's allegations was presented with her evidence, but she said in one excerpt that she has evidence, including data on Swiss bank accounts allegedly used by the Brazilian companies to pay the money funnelled to her by Mr Maduro.

"Odebrecht paid about 7 million dollars in connection with the work delivered by Polis Caribe, and Andrade Gutierrez paid 2 million dollars through Swiss banks in an account named Shelbill, in connection with the value of the political project of the campaign" for Mr Chavez's re-election, she said.

In February, Ms Moura and her husband were sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for money laundering in a separate case tied to the Petrobras probe. They were released on bail as they wait for a decision on an appeal.

Ms Moura also made accusations against former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

She said shoe boxes filled with cash were used to pay for her services in his re-election campaign in 2006. She said her company was illegally paid with about 3.5 million dollars (£2.7 million) at current exchange rates during Mr Silva's campaign.

Half of that amount was paid by Odebrecht, she said.

AP

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