High-Ranking Bolivian Official Arrested In Sale of Jailed Jacob Ostreicher’s Rice

UPDATED: Bolivian authorities have arrested a high-ranking government official for alleged illegal enrichment from the sale of rice seized from Jacob Ostreicher – a U.S. businessman who has been jailed for 18 months without charge.

Ostreicher was arrested in a money-laundering investigation but no evidence has been presented in court to support the case against him. He claims his incarceration has allowed corrupt officials to fleece him, seizing 18 tons of rice from his farming venture and selling most of it.

The man arrested Monday and accused of receiving $9,900 in proceeds in a personal bank account from the sale of some of Ostreicher’s rice is Jose Manuel Antezana, an official in the Presidential Ministry who was named to the board of directors of the state-run Cartonbol cardboard company in 2010.

Prosecutor Javier Monasterios told reporters that authorities were investigating others in the case.

Ostreicher told The Associated Press that prosecutors told him there would be more arrests and that 11 people “who work for the government are under suspicion” for allegedly abuses of authority in his case.

“I’m very concerned that now that the story is finally going to break that, with 11 government officials involved in corruption, some officials are going to think that what better way to get rid of me but to kill me,” Ostreicher said from a clinic in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.

“So I have concern right now about not only my physical health but my safety,” added Ostreicher, 54.

Ostreicher has been treated for malnutrition at the clinic from a liquids-only hunger strike he mounted to protest his incarceration.

After a Halloween visit from the actor Sean Penn, Ostreicher was sent to the clinic, where he says he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

U.S. diplomats and New Jersey congressman Christopher Smith have also been visiting Ostreicher, an orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, N.Y., and interceding on his behalf.

The Associated Press has repeatedly questioned senior Bolivian officials about the case since last year, including its foreign minister and interior minister. The officials had said only that they would look into it.

A judge denied Ostreicher bail on Friday, but the New York man said he expected a new hearing next week.

Under Bolivian law, suspects may not be jailed for more than 18 months without charge.

Earlier this year, the regional director of DIRCABI, the state agency in charge of seized assets, was fired over the illegal sale of Ostreicher’s rice.

The American says he went to Bolivia to salvage a rice-growing investment after the local manager, whom he described as a Colombian con artist, defrauded investors and planted some of their rice on land owned by the brother of a Brazilian drug trafficker.

Prosecutors initially alleged that the $25 million invested in the rice venture was obtained illegally.

But they subsequently failed to present evidence supporting the allegations and authorities in Switzerland have vouched for Ostreicher’s Swiss business associate, Andre Zolty. More from the AP in ABC.

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  1. Where is the pidyon outcry for an innocent man
    I guess you have to br proven guilty before everyone coming to your rescue and raising money
    It’s been 18 month no campaign no rally’s no raising funds and this mans life is in danger
    Something is wrong with our thinking

  2. You don’t know what is being done behind the scenes. There are plenty of Askanim involved.

    Sometimes the best way to help a certain situation is to scream and shout so the whole world hears and other times it’s best to be working out of the public eye. There is a reason why this is being handled a certain way… and yes it’s for the benefit of Ostreicher

  3. Yes, and it was true that Askanim were deeply trying to help then as well. Unfortunately we had an anti-Semetic president here in the U.S. at the time and he refused to help the Yidden.

    Nowadays even if a president was an anti-Semite he wouldn’t be able to get away with “open” anti-Semitism.

    Ultimately it comes down to us by davening to H’KB”H. We have to do our part by davening for K”Y

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