26 June 2019
Puerto Rico Governor, Ricardo Rossello (in the picture), sacked the Treasury Secretary Raul Maldonado Gautier just hours after the cabinet member disclosed a federal corruption investigation into his own department. Rosselló said he wasn’t firing Maldonado because of his comments, but because he lost confidence in him, adding the allegations were serious and he has ordered an investigation. Maldonado took over the Treasury Department in January, when former secretary Teresita Fuentes resigned after saying there were irregularities within the agency.
The moves came after Maldonado told a radio station that “institutional mafia” within his department composed of “officials who have been with the department for many years,” was responsible for influence peddling, destruction of documents and other crimes.
Maldonado Gautier was appointed Secretary of Treasury in January for a second time after having served the role in 2017 and then moved on to become Rosselló’s Chief of Staff in 2018. Afterwards, his confirmation in the Senate brought forward claims of conflict of interest, and NotiCel reported that a firm he and his son were associated with had contracts with the Department of Treasury.
Rossello said that Francisco Pares, assistant secretary of internal revenue and tax policy, would become the acting treasury secretary. Christian Sobrino Vega, chief executive of the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, will become chief financial officer, a title that Maldonado had held along with his cabinet post.
Puerto Rico is in the verge of bankruptcy, worsened by  Hurricane Maria in  2017.  As of early August 2017, the debt was $72 billion with a 45% poverty rate. Congress is looking into a proposal to restructure some $35 billion of its debt.  Decades of mismanagement has put Puerto Rico in its current fiscal hole.
Last month FBI arrested the director of the Senate Office of Government Affairs and two contractors for billing for services that were never completed.  After the Hurricane Maria, the island’s energy authority, Prepa, gave the job of resurrecting the devastated electrical grid via a $300 million no-bid contract to Whitefish Energy, a Montana company with two full-time employees. The contract was eventually cancelled and Prepa’s head resigned.
Bloomberg reported.
Maldonado’s son, Maldonado Nieves, took to social media this week and accused Rosselló of corruption and of altering an audit ordered by his father. The audit looked into a foundation with ties to Rosselló’s wife and ultimately found no wrongdoing involving alleged mishandling of supplies meant for Hurricane Maria survivors.
Maldonado Nieves referred to the misplaced freight containers that contained relief for hurricane victims that were found in Toa Alta. Last year, accounting firm BDO Puerto Rico took part in an audit that investigated the disappearance of the containers which found no mismanagement. BDO is currently under federal investigation for allegedly intervening in several government agencies, including the Health Insurance Administration.
Rosselló issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting accusations and noting that his wife was only a spokeswoman for the foundation and did not have an administrative role.
Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez ordered Maldonado to meet with prosecutors on Friday and present evidence to back up his claims of alleged bribery. She said his son was ordered to appear next week.
Latinorebels reported.