Former Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vázquez was arrested by authorities on Thursday in San Juan on suspicion of bribery related to the funding of her 2020 political campaign.
Vázquez is accused of being part of a bribery scheme that took place from 2019 to 2020, involving several co-conspirators, including a former US FBI agent. Vázquez vehemently denied any wrongdoing. “I am innocent. I have not committed any crime,” she said to reporters. ”I assure you that they have committed a great injustice against me.”
Stephen Muldrow, US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, told the press on Thursday that Vázquez received over $300,000 from two businessmen between 2019 and 2020 to finance her campaign.
The funds were allegedly used to pay political strategists. In exchange, Vázquez would offer them their choice of bank regulator for the island. Vázquez, along with the former FBI agent, a bank owner, a bank president, and a political strategist, are charged with conspiracy, federal programs bribery and honest services wire fraud.
“The alleged bribery scheme rose to the highest levels of the Puerto Rican government, threatening public trust in our electoral processes and institutions of governance,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. The scandal came as Vázquez’s new political party, the New Progressive Party, had been in the midst of a major push to hold a referendum in 2023 in a bid for Puerto Rican statehood.
Current Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi says the arrest of Vázquez undermines the peoples’ confidence in their political leaders. “Under my administration there is zero tolerance for corruption,” he said in a statement. “Today we see once again that no one is above the law in Puerto Rico.”
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