LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A high-ranking Bolivian official was arrested Monday for alleged illegal enrichment from the sale of rice seized from a U.S. businessman who has been jailed for 18 months without charge.
The American, Jacob Ostreicher, was arrested in a money-laundering investigation but no evidence has been presented in court to support the case against him. He claims his incarceration has allowed corrupt officials to fleece him, seizing 18,000 metric tons of rice from his farming venture and selling most of it.
The man arrested Monday and accused of receiving $9,900 in proceeds in a personal bank account from the sale of some of Ostreicher's rice is Jose Manuel Antezana, an official in the Presidential Ministry who was named to the board of directors of the state-run Cartonbol cardboard company in 2010.
Prosecutor Javier Monasterios told reporters that authorities were investigating others in the case.
Ostreicher told The Associated Press that prosecutors told him there would be more arrests and that 11 people "who work for the government are under suspicion" for allegedly abuses of authority in his case.
"I'm very concerned that now that the story is finally going to break that, with 11 government officials involved in corruption, some officials are going to think that what better way to get rid of me but to kill me," Ostreicher said from a clinic in the eastern city of Santa Cruz.
"So I have concern right now about not only my physical health but my safety," added Ostreicher, 54.
Ostreicher has been treated at the clinic for malnutrition from a liquids-only hunger strike he mounted to protest his incarceration.
After a Halloween visit from the actor Sean Penn, Ostreicher was sent to the clinic, where he says he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
U.S. diplomats and New Jersey congressman Christopher Smith have also been visiting Ostreicher, an orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, N.Y., and interceding on his behalf.