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article imageVenezuela probes anti-govt prosecutor in judicial duel

By AFP     Sep 1, 2017 in World

Venezuela's chief prosecutor launched embezzlement accusations against his predecessor, who fled the country saying the government wanted to kill her after she challenged it over a deadly political crisis, but she hit back with fresh counter-maneuvers on Friday.

Former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega is currently in Mexico, the latest stop on a tour of countries where she has been denouncing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The socialist president has branded her a traitor. She says she is being persecuted after becoming Maduro's most prominent domestic critic.

Ortega's pro-government successor Tarek William Saab told a news conference Thursday he was investigating the embezzlement of $200 million skimmed off from inflated state oil contracts between 2010 and 2016.

He accused Ortega of turning a blind eye to the fraud and failing to investigate it when she was chief prosecutor.

"You are the main person responsible for this embezzlement... because you had evidence of it and did nothing," he said, addressing Ortega.

"What you did was divert the investigation in order to carry out extortion" against those involved, he added.

Ortega, 59, fled the country with her husband two weeks ago after authorities launched other legal actions against each of them.

She has accused the government of hiring contract killers to go after her.

In Mexico on Friday, she announced the latest in a series of judicial maneuvers targeting Maduro and his allies.

She told reporters she had handed to Mexican prosecutors "important information relating to investigations under way in Venezuela that could be of interest" to Mexico.

She earlier tweeted that she was talking with Mexican chief prosecutor Raul Cervantes, "coordinating action for the fight against corruption."

Her trip to Mexico followed stops in Colombia, Brazil and Costa Rica.

Ortega says that Maduro is a "dictator" for taking over state institutions in order to resist opposition pressure for him to quit.

She says she has proof implicating him and his inner circle in corruption linked to the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

Venezuela is suffering an economic crisis that has caused food and medicine shortages.

Prosecutors say some 125 people were killed this year in four months of anti-government protests.

Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy. He has vowed to request an Interpol notice for Ortega's arrest.

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