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Aleman "cleared" of corruption charges.

The Nicaraguan Attorney General's Office is throwing its hands up in frustration, following a resolution by the Comptroller's Office clearing incarcerated former President Arnoldo Aleman of criminal activity in a US$34.1 million embezzlement case known as the "Taiwan Donation," or "La Guaca II," reports The Tico Times (Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2005):

"I have been a lawyer for 32 years and I cannot explain what is going on with the laws in Nicaragua ," Attorney General Alberto Novoa admitted to the daily La Prensa. "Everything is backwards ... Aleman's (situation) could now be determined by political negotiations, rather than a legal process." Former President Aleman (1997-2002) is two years into a 20-year jail term for being found guilty of US$100 million worth of money laundering, embezzlement, corruption and fraud charges. The comptroller's resolution claims that "no sufficient, pertinent or evidential documentation" was found linking Aleman's signature to the embezzlement of funds in the "Taiwan Donation" case;

The resolution does declare responsible seven of Aleman's former associates, including his former Finance Minister, Esteban Duque Estrada, who is a fugitive from justice and thought to be in Panama. With the exception of former Tax Director Byron Jerez, who is serving an eight-year house arrest for money laundering and corruption, none of the other implicated individuals are behind bars. Aleman's defense lawyers and family members immediately interpreted the comptroller's resolution as evidence the former President is innocent and jailed unjustly. They are demanding his immediate release. Novoa, however, claims the Attorney General's Office has ample documentation and evidence proving Aleman's guilt, not only in the case of the "Taiwan Donation," but in various other cases that add up to US$81 million in stolen state funds. "The embezzlement and fraud this guy did has been demonstrated to the national and international community," Novoa said. "This can't be erased by any resolution";

The comptroller's resolution also isn't likely to change the U.S. government's opinion about Aleman. According to an EFE wire report, the U.S. announced Nov. 9 it will give Nicaragua US$671,000 confiscated from the sale of a helicopter linked to Aleman and Jerez . The two reportedly purchased the helicopter with embezzled Nicaraguan funds and then rented it from themselves using additional state money.
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Title Annotation:NICARAGUA; Arnoldo Aleman
Publication:Caribbean Update
Geographic Code:2NICA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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