Bolivian leader's ex-lover held in corruption probe

AP News
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Posted: Feb 27, 2016 2:50 PM
Bolivian leader's ex-lover held in corruption probe

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — The former lover of President Evo Morales who was working as a high-ranking executive at a Chinese firm has been arrested as part of a probe into alleged influence trafficking involving hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts.

Gabriela Zapata was expected to be charged Saturday with illegal enrichment, laundering of unjust gains and influence trafficking, according to her lawyer. She was taken into custody on Friday at the request of Bolivia's anti-corruption agency, who argued she was a flight risk.

The bombshell revelation this month of Morales' past relationship with Zapata upended the final stretch of a referendum campaign aimed at allowing the president to seek re-election when his current term ends in 2020. Morales narrowly lost the vote, delivering a major blow to his decade-old leftist government.

Morales during the campaign acknowledged the relationship and said the two even had a child together in 2007, but that the infant later died.

In another twist, Zapata's aunt said Saturday that the child was still alive and named Ernesto Fidel.

"My niece will soon provide more information, she wants to talk," Pilar Guzman told ATB television on Saturday.

Zapata, 29, declined to speak when she was arrested on Friday.

In 2013, Zapata became general manager for Bolivia of China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd., whose seven contracts with the state, all but one no-bid, are worth more than $500 million.

Opposition politicians accuse Morales of influence-trafficking through the Chinese firm, a claim he denies.

Along with Zapata, two officials in the presidential office are being charged. Zapata's lawyer, Walter Zuleta, has called his client's arrest arbitrary and said he will demonstrate her innocence.