A former Bolivian minister and four others have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for bribery and money laundry, the department said Wednesday.
Former Minister of Government of Bolivia Arturo Carlos Murillo Prijic and former Bolivian government official Sergio Rodrigo Mendez Mendizabal were arrested last week for an alleged bribery scheme that took place between November 2019 and April 2020.
Three U.S. citizens – Luis Berkman, Bryan Berkman, and Philip Lichtenfeld – were also arrested.
All five men have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The DOJ alleges that Luis Berkman, Bryan Berkman and Litchtenfeld paid $602,000 in bribes to Bolivian government officials for the benefit of Murillo, Mendez and one other Bolivian official.
The bribes were paid so that Bryan Berkman’s Florida-based company could land a $5.6 million contract from the Bolivian Ministry of Defense for tear gas and other non-lethal equipment, the DOJ says.
Bryan Berkman, Luis Berkman, and Lichtenfeld then laundered the payments to other officials through bank accounts, and orchestrated a payment of $582,000 in cash for Murillo and Mendez, according to the DOJ.
Murillo served under Bolivian President Jeanine Anez, who assumed the role after former president Evo Morales resigned in 2019 amid protests, according to Reuters. He drew controversy for his handling of protests, which resulted in dozens killed during street battles.