October 13, 2017 / 3:59 PM / a year ago

Venezuela ex-prosecutor gives U.S. evidence on Maduro officials

GENEVA (Reuters) - Venezuela’s former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega said on Friday her team had supplied the United States with evidence “compromising” top officials in the leftist administration of President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attends a joint news conference with his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko following their meeting at the Independence Palace in Minsk, Belarus October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The Trump administration has already slapped sanctions on Venezuelan officials for alleged corruption and rights abuses, so news Ortega has been providing information to Washington is likely to irk Maduro’s unpopular government.

Asked if she was sharing information about corruption in the Maduro administration with Washington, including graft linked to food imports for the shortages-hit country, Ortega said meetings have taken place.

“The prosecutors in Colombia with me ... have been meeting with prosecutors from the United States and some other countries to exchange information,” Ortega told reporters after meeting United Nations rights boss Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein in Geneva.

“We’ve supplied them with a mix of evidence that compromises high-level government officials,” she said, adding she planned to visit the United States.

Ortega, 59, was removed from her post in August after breaking with Maduro earlier this year in a dramatic split the opposition said evidenced Venezuela’s swerve into dictatorship.

She went into hiding before fleeing the country on a speedboat to the Caribbean island of Aruba and going on to Colombia.

Since then, she has been traveling around the region denouncing the Maduro government for persecuting her and engaging in corruption.

She has said she has evidence that Maduro was involved in graft with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and also profited off food imports to her country where millions are unable to eat three square meals a day.

Socialist Party officials have denied Ortega’s allegations. The Venezuelan government says Ortega failed to tackle corruption while she was in office and instead ran an extortion ring that allowed culprits to pay in exchange for getting off the hook.

Ortega has rejected those accusations as politically motivated.

Ortega, who was Venezuela’s chief prosecutor for over a decade, long adhered to the ruling Socialist Party line and her office spearheaded the jailing of political foes.

Two years ago she said she assumed she was on the U.S. State Department’s list of Venezuelan officials who would be denied visas and have property confiscated there due to alleged rights abuses and corruption.

Ortega’s public change of heart came in March when she condemned the Supreme Court’s usurping of powers from the opposition-controlled congress, a move that was quickly partially overturned.

Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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