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Americas

Former defence minister arrested on graft charges

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Latest update : 2009-04-03

A leading opposition figure, former Defence Minister Raul Baduel has been arrested on corruption charges and is accused of having taken "a large amount of money" when he was minister in 2002-2007.

AFP - The Venezuelan military prosecutor announced Thursday the arrest of former defense minister Raul Baduel, a one-time supporter of President Hugo Chavez and now a leading opposition figure, on charges of corruption.

Prosecutor Ernesto Cedeno told Venezolana de Television that there is enough information to believe that Baduel took out "a large amount of money" while he headed the defense ministry.

Baduel was defense minister from 2002-2007, after which he resigned and joined the opposition to the leftist government.

In October Baduel was arrested and accused of withdrawing some 14.4 million dollars of funds belonging to the Armed Forces, Cedeno said at the time.

Baudel was released awaiting a hearing, though he was supposed to regularly check in with the military prosecutor's office.

Cedeno said that privilege was revoked on Thursday, adding that the Baduel "never had any intention of complying with the law."

Baduel had repeatedly said that the charges amounted to "political persecution" due to his fierce opposition to Chavez.

Baduel and Chavez were among the army officers that began the Bolivarian Movement within the Venezuelan military in 1983.

Baduel also headed the civilian-military operation that restored Chavez to power after he was briefly ousted in a 47-hour coup in April 2002.

The ex-minister's defense attorney, Omar Mora Tosta, said that the case against his client is "arbitrary" and "riddled with mistakes."

"We are surprised, and hope that this is not an epidemic against people who have legal cases in which the state is involved," he told local news media.
 

Date created : 2009-04-03

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