Yesterday the first anti-corruption prosecutor opened an investigation into a $14.5 million contract for dehydrated food that was issued by the National Assistance Program (PAN) to feed students in the poorest areas of the country.
The investigation is based on a La Prensa article that revealed that a portion of the contract was deposited in an offshore account belonging to lawyer Amado Arjona Duque, who had a signed agreement six months before the contract was issued that called for him to receive that fee. The contract was with the company Lerkshore International Limited, operated by businessman Rubén De Ycaza. The "commission," which prosecutors are calling a bribe, was equivalent to 30 percent of the contract.
Arjona Duque has strong ties to Javier Pariente, vice president of Importadora Ricamar, the company owned by former President Ricardo Martinelli. Pariente has been linked to other financial irregularities in food purchases by the PAN, as well as an alleged $10 million bribe that was paid by the contractor that was hired to build the cold chain for $75 million.
Pariente was linked to the cold chain scandal through the company Mejores Acabados, S.A., which partnered with Outsourcing de Venezuela, S.A. to win the cold chain contract, of which it was the only bidder. He is listed as the signatory in the company's account at Banco Panama.
Outsourcing de Venezuela owner Luis Aular Peralta said over the weekend that his partnership with Mejores Acabados was not voluntary, but that he was ordered to do so in order to receive the contract. Mejores Acabados makes up just .5 percent of the consortium, while Outsourcing de Venezuela makes up the other 99.5 percent.
Aular Peralta then said he was ordered to issue the $10 million "consulting fee" to Arjona Duque, or face financial penalties imposed by the government.