Venezuelan Prosecution Orders Trial for Top Food Officials Charged with Corruption

The heads of the Venezuelan Food Corporation and the Abastos Bicentenario supermarket chain will be tried for embezzlement among other charges.

By Lucas Koerner
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Venezuela’s Public Prosecution ordered trials against top food officials on Tuesday. (Archive)
Venezuela’s Public Prosecution ordered trials against top food officials on Tuesday. (Archive)

Caracas, November 16, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan Public Prosecutor’s office has ordered trials to proceed against the former heads of the country’s main government food distribution chains over alleged corruption.

Earlier this year, Venezuelan authorities indicted scores of leading officials at the Venezuelan Food Corruption and the Abastos Bicentenario supermarket chain over alleged theft of state resources associated with the running of open-air street markets in the Caracas metropolitan area.  

In a preliminary hearing Tuesday, the 11th and 73rd national prosecutors ordered a trial against former Venezuelan Food Corporation President Heber Aguilar as well as Barbara Estela Gonzalez, former head of the Abastos Bicentenario state supermarket chain.

Aguilar was charged with boycott, evasion of legal processes, concert with contractors, as well as criminal association, while Gonzalez was accused of embezzlement. Both were arrested in an anti-corruption raid in January. 

Abastos Bicentenario’s ex-administrator Barbara Neidi Figueroa will also face trial on embezzlement charges as will the body’s former national distribution director Johanis Ascanio Gonzales, who was accused of boycott, concert with contractors, and criminal association.

During a raid on Figueroa’s residence in January, authorities reportedly discovered 10 million bolivares that they allege was diverted from open-air market sales.

In addition to the government officials, prosecutors ordered a trial for the businessmen Mariano Crespo Gonzalez and Andres Haiek Ruiz, who have been linked to the illicit obtainment, distribution, and commercialization of over 100 thousand cows belonging to the Venezuelan state.

Both men are accused of using shell companies to import the livestock from Brazil with preferential government dollars and subsequently selling the beef to private restaurants. The two were arrested while attempting to board a flight to Miami on the orders of the Public Prosecutor’s office in February.