BOGOTA, Colombia (AFP) — Venezuela’s opposition-run supreme court in exile has sentenced President Nicolas Maduro to 18 years in prison over the infamous Odebrecht corruption scandal, a move dismissed by the regime.
The court —convening in Bogota, the capital of neighbouring Colombia — also fined Maduro US$35 billion for legitimation of capital, and another US$25 million for corruption, magistrate Rafael Rommel-Gil said.
The court, which was appointed by sidelined opposition legislators but is not recognised by Caracas, disqualified the president from politics for the duration of his sentence and asked that an international arrest warrant be issued.
Maduro’s right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello, president of the country’s controversial government-dominated superagency legislature, mocked the decision.
“Are they in Colombia saying they can sentence the Venezuela president while Nicolas is still the president? My God!” he said on state television.
The case was brought by former Venezuela public prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who fled to Colombia last year after she was sacked by Maduro’s loyalist Constituent Assembly.
That body was set up a year ago amidst four months of violent street protests that left 125 people dead, in what the opposition described as a government “coup.”
Having lost control of the elected National Assembly to the opposition, Maduro stacked the Supreme Court with loyalists who subsequently annulled every decision the legislature made.
Maduro then created his own legislature filled almost exclusively with regime members who appointed themselves the country’s highest political authority.
The sidelined National Assembly, symbolically, appointed it’s own supreme court in exile.
“Odebrecht benefitted from numerous infrastructure awards planned for Venezuela (that were) paid for but never concluded,” said Ortega during Wednesday’s court case.
Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht has admitted guilt in a far-reaching corruption scandal across the Americas for bribing politicians to secure inflated construction contracts.
Miami-based Venezuelan magistrates had already “suspended” Maduro in May over the Odebrecht accusations.
The exiled magistrates had in April asked parliament to authorize the prosecution of Maduro, which the National Assembly duly granted. But like all it’s other decisions, that was annulled by the supreme court sitting in Caracas.