CARACAS, Venezuela: Venezuelan authorities have opened an investigation into the wife of a prominent opposition activist under house arrest after finding a large amount of cash in her car.
On Thursday, authorities discovered some 200 million bolivars in a vehicle belonging to Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez. That’s around $60,000 (Dh220,469) at the nation’s weakest official exchange rate or $10,000 at the black market rate.
Tintori took to Twitter Friday to denounce what she said was a persecution against her family, pointing out that it’s not a crime to have cash in one’s possession. In a video she showed a document ordering her to appear Tuesday before a local court.
It’s not clear what crimes Tintori is being investigated for. She has said the cash was to pay for emergencies including the hospitalisation of her 100-year-old grandmother.
Some government supporters have accused Tintori of using the funds to finance “terrorism” — a term they frequently use to describe violent protests that have rocked Venezuela over the past four months — although they have presented no evidence to back the claim.
“They are trying to cause a scandal where there is none,” Tintori said in the video shot at her home and wearing a T-shit emblazoned with an image of her husband.
Tarek William Saab, who the pro-government constitutional assembly appointed to replace Venezuela’s outspoken chief prosecutor after she was ousted, said on Thursday that her case was under investigation but he provided no more details. Late Friday, Saab’s office said it was also investigating in connection to the case two executives from local Banco Occidental de Descuento for allegedly diverting funds from the bank to benefit themselves and third parties.
The citation for Tintori comes as she is expected to travel to Europe next week to urge foreign leaders to join the Trump administration and slap sanctions on President Nicolas Maduro*s socialist government as it moves forward with plans to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution and consolidate power.
Two people close to Tintori told The Associated Press that she will leave Caracas as planned on Saturday and has meetings scheduled with the French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angel Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they fear retaliation from the government.
Tintori’s husband, Lopez, served three years of a 14-year sentence for leading violent anti-government demonstrations in 2014 before being released from a military prison and placed under house arrest in July in an attempt to put down an even deadlier wave of protests against Maduro.
His trial and conviction, which was marred by irregularities, has been condemned by numerous foreign governments and the United Nations.