Mérida, February 25th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Attorney General on Friday accused the International Criminal Police Organization, or INTERPOL, of “creating impunity” as it relates to Venezuelan bankers removed from lists of international fugitives that Venezuela demanded be brought to justice.
Nelson Mezerhane, former owner of Venezuela’s now defunct Banco Federal and minority shareholder of opposition media channel Globovisión, is one of the Venezuelans who had his named blocked from a list of red alerts the Venezuelan government requested of the international policing organization. Red alerts are an order for capture valid internationally.
Venezuelan daily El Panorama reported earlier this week that in the case of fugitive bankers, over 40% of requests submitted to INTERPOL by Venezuela have been blocked by the entity’s lawyers. The lawyers, the paper reported, determined that many of the fugitives on Venezuela’s lists were victims of “political persecution.”
In an open letter to INTERPOL’s Secretary General, Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz demanded an explanation and said that the decisions by INTERPOL lawyers amounted to the “meddling in the internal affairs” of Venezuela.
“I don’t understand what criteria you have to say these are political persecutions,” she wrote.
“What you’re saying is that in this country [Venezuela] there are sectors [of the population] that can commit crimes and that if the law is applied, it will only be applied against the poor, because otherwise they [the criminals] will be considered politically persecuted.”
In addition, Díaz explained that INTERPOL’s decision to block certain names from the lists “creates impunity” because those individuals whose names are blocked can “do whatever they want, commit whatever crime, and can not be included in red alerts unless INTERPOL has specifically unblocked them.”
“You don’t have to be very bright to understand that there are attacks against the Venezuelan state and its decisions,” she concluded.
Adalberto Urbina, Professor of Human Rights and International Criminal Law at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), disagreed with the Attorney General.
"The fact that President (Hugo) Chávez has appeared on TV ordering the prosecution of bankers such as Nelson Mezerhane, who is also the owner of a TV network with which he has engaged in bitter debates proves that there is political persecution" he said.
On Thursday, Díaz confirmed that a Venezuelan court has again asked INTERPOL to arrest Mezerhane.
Nelson Mezerhane is the former owner of Venezuela’s third largest bank, Banco Federal, which was seized by the Venezuelan government in 2010 after it uncovered numerous banking law violations committed by the bank’s administrators.
Mezerhane, who now resides in Miami, fled to the United States to avoid prosecution. He is accused of fleeing with customers’ deposits.
According to Venezuela’s Superintendent of Banks (SUDEBAN), Mezerhane’s Banco Federal failed to comply with the minimum amount of capital that is to be made available for the national productive sector and the minimum balance of liquid assets stipulated by the General Law on Banking and Financial Institutions. With total deposits worth $3.5 billion bolivars, the bank allowed its liquid assets to drop to 920 million bolivars as of 21 May 2010, SUDEBAN charged.
The Venezuelan government says it intervened in Banco Federal to protect nearly 500,000 customers’ deposits.
Carmen Pereira, one of the bank’s former customers, demanded Mezerhane “be in jail, instead of living it up in the United States with my money and the money of thousands of Venezuelans.”
“Had it not been for President Chávez[‘s intervention], who held this man accountable for his actions, my family would be in a very bad state because my husband and I had all of our savings in that bank,” she said.
As part of the intervention, Mezerhane’s financial assets were seized, including a 38,000 acre estate in the rural state of Apure, a private residence in the upper-class Caracas neighborhood of La Florida, 6.3% of the Loma de Niquel nickel mine, and a 25.8% stake in opposition media channel Globovisión.
In response to the seizures, Mezerhane published an open letter to Chávez affirming that he wanted the Venezuelan President to be “judged and condemned”, accusing the democratically-elected president of “dictatorial” tendencies.
In the letter, Mezerhane also called himself a “political refugee” and affirmed that the government acquisition of his Globovisión shares is intended to “silence the only television channel that reports about [Chávez] stepping on democracy.”
“If they [Mezerhane and other fugitive bankers] have nothing to fear, they should appear and answer to the courts,” Chávez said in response.
"There are many governments that shelter bandits...starting with the United States," said Chávez.
Mezerhane is also suspected of involvement in the 2004 car bomb murder of Venezuelan State Prosecutor Danilo Anderson. At the time of his death, Anderson was investigating some 400 people suspected of involvement in the brief April 2002 coup d’etat that removed Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez from office.
According to a key government witness, Mezerhane participated in three separate international meetings – in Miami (US), Panama City (Panama), and Maracaibo (Venezuela) – in which Anderson’s murder was planned.