Paraguayan prosecutor opens probe of vice president accused by U.S. of corruption

Hugo Velazquez, President of the Lower House of Congress, talks to the press before a session in Asuncion, Paraguay April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Paraguay's Attorney General's office said on Tuesday it opened a criminal investigation into Vice President Hugo Velazquez, almost two weeks after the U.S. government accused him of having committed "significant" corruption.

The Public Ministry said on Facebook that Attorney General Sandra Quinonez ordered the opening of a criminal case to investigate "the facts in relation to the statement of the U.S. ambassador, Marc Ostfield" concerning Velazquez.

The U.S. State Department said in mid-August that Velazquez was involved in significant corruption after allegedly offering a $1 million bribe to an official through a third party. read more

The accusation unleashed a political earthquake in Paraguay, where Velazquez was set to be the government's presidential candidate in primary elections for the conservative Colorado Party in December, but then decided to renounce to his candidacy.

Later in August, Velazquez said he would stay on as vice president until he had details of the accusations against him. read more

At the end of July, the United States also singled out former president Horacio Cartes, one of the country's richest men and a political adversary of Velazquez and President Mario Abdo, for having obstructed a cross-border criminal investigation to protect himself from possible prosecution. read more

Reporting by Daniela Desantis Editing by Alistair Bell

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