28 May 2021
Arturo Murillo, a former Bolivian minister has been charged in the US with corruption and money laundering. His former chief of staff, Sergio Mende, was also arrested. The DOJ said that both of them were involved in a bribe by a U.S. company to secure a Bolivian government contract. Three US citizens were also charged with the alleged bribery scheme, which took place between November 2019 and April 2020.
Bryan Berkman, a dual Bolivian-American, was accused of paying $602,000 to the Bolivian officials, to secure a $5.6m contract to provide Bolivia’s defence ministry with tear gas and other non-lethal equipment. He had purchased the tear gas in Brazil for $3.3 million, according to an affidavit from a Department of Homeland Security agent that accompanies the complaint. Part of the profits was used to pay the bribe. While the American company is not named in the complaint, Berkman is the chief executive of Taramac-based Bravo Tactical Solutions, according to Florida’s corporate registry.
Murillo, 57, was a senator, before being named as interior minister in the government of interim president Jeanine Áñez. He was in the office for a year from November 2019. After that, Morales’ ally, Luis Arce, was elected as president.
Anez and other ex-officials were arrested in March, and accused of attempting a coup. She was ordered to four months of detention shortly after her arrest. But Murillo left Bolivia ahead of his arrest.
Murillo as interior minister, brought charges against former President, Morales for sedition and led the deadly police response against protesters that drew rebuke from international human rights groups.
According to press reports, Bolivian authorities arrested a relative of Murillo as he was withdrawing money and valuables from a security deposit box at a bank in the city of Cochabamba held in Murillo’s name. Bolivian authorities have also asked US to extradite Murillo and Sergio Mende to face trial in Bolivia.
Bolivia’s Central Bank attempted to wire transfer $5.6 million to a U.S. account belonging to the Berkman-owned company. But, the wire transfer was rejected.