World News

Paraguay ex-President Cartes says open to local probe after Brazil arrest warrant

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguayan former president Horacio Cartes said on Monday he was open to the country’s prosecutors’ officer investigating him after a Brazilian judge issued a warrant for his arrest last week as part of the widespread “Car Wash” corruption probe.

The arrest warrant is part of a new phase probe called Patron targeting black-market money dealers. The Brazilian federal judge alleged tobacco magnate Cartes - Paraguay’s president from 2013 to 2018 - helped an influential dealer Dario Messer before his arrest last July in Sao Paulo.

Cartes in a letter to Paraguay’s prosecutor called on the body to investigate the case, which he said involved conduct that “entirely” took place within Paraguayan territory.

“I present myself and make myself available to the Public Ministry so that... the facts and behaviours attributed to my person are investigated and judged,” Cartes wrote.

In the note, Cartes presents himself as a life senator and an elected senator, a status that would grant him immunity from prosecution. However, his status as a member of the Senate is widely debated in the country by politicians and judges.

The Patron operation has targeted money changers involved in corruption and bribery schemes of former Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral, who has been detained since 2017. Messer is considered a key player in that case.

Cartes, 63, is considered one of the richest men in Paraguay and remains politically influential. During his tenure he also made sweeping changes to the country’s judiciary, including appointing the current head of the Attorney General’s office.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Alistair Bell