Venezuela probes fugitive prosecutor

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's chief prosecutor has launched embezzlement accusations against his predecessor, who fled the country saying the government wanted to kill her after she challenged it over a deadly political crisis.

Former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega is currently in Mexico, the latest stop on a tour of countries where she has been denouncing alleged corruption by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The socialist president has branded her a corrupt and a traitor. She says she is being persecuted after becoming Maduro's most prominent domestic critic.

Ortega's pro-government successor Tarek William Saab told a news conference Thursday he was investigating the embezzlement of $200 million skimmed off from inflated state oil contracts between 2010 and 2016.

He accused Ortega of turning a blind eye to the fraud and failing to investigate it when she was chief prosecutor.

"You are the main person responsible for this embezzlement... because you had evidence of it and did nothing," he said, addressing Ortega.

"What you did was divert the investigation in order to carry out extortion" against those involved, he added.

Ortega fled the country with her husband two weeks ago after authorities launched other legal action against both of them.

She has accused the government of hiring contract killers to go after her.

Ortega says that Maduro is a "dictator" for taking over state institutions in order to resist opposition pressure for him to quit.

Venezuela is suffering an economic crisis resulting in food and medicine shortages.

Prosecutors say some 125 people were killed this year during months of anti-government protests.