Political News

Campaign exec: Maduro used illegal cash for Chavez campaign

Posted May 11

— A political consultant has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of paying her $11 million in cash to cover the costs of the 2012 re-election campaign of his predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, using money that she says was illegally provided by Brazilian companies.

Monica Moura, a Brazilian who ran the Chavez campaign with her husband, made the accusation in plea bargain testimony 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 Maduro came from the big Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez.

Venezuela's foreign ministry did not respond to requests from The Associated Press for comment on Moura's accusations, which were made public Thursday by Brazil's Supreme Court.

In one excerpt from her testimony, prosecutors said Moura had informed them that "Maduro welcomed her in his own office, gave her binders with cash and offered her guards for the trip between the foreign ministry and her producing company." At the time, Maduro was Venezuela's foreign minister under Chavez, who died in 2013 while still president.

Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez spokesmen declined to comment on her testimony, but noted the companies are cooperating with Brazilian investigators. Odebrecht has admitted in a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors that it paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes across Latin America for help in winning public works contracts.

Moura is married to Joao Santana, who is Brazil's most acclaimed political campaigner. They are partners in a number of political consulting firms, including Polis Caribe, which was involved in the Chavez campaign.

No documentation for her allegation was presented with her testimony, but Moura said in one excerpt that she has evidence of her claim, including data on Swiss bank accounts allegedly used by the Brazilian companies to pay the money funneled to her by Maduro.

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

In February, 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.

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 at current exchange rates during Silva's campaign. Half of that amount was paid by Odebrecht, she said.

Moura said her company received illegally more than $53 million from both candidates and construction companies outside Brazil.

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