WHO WILL STOP THE TANKS?
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Days before the horrible shots rang out, thousands of Chinese who sought nothing more than freedom converged on Tiananmen Square in Beijing to demonstrate for, among other things, the freedom to speak. They knew what they risked that warm June in 1989; it wasn’t police who showed up to disperse the group, it was soldiers and tanks. But the demonstrators did not disperse. In the end, hundreds or even thousands of these brave souls were shot and machine-gunned into silence. One man, however, galvanized the world with his selfless resistance. He will forever be known as “The Tank Man.” The photo of this man standing in front of a line of tanks, stopping their advance on the Square, somehow made everyone in the world a little stronger and braver.
The bravest people in the world are rarely found in governments, in the courts or even on the legal bench. The people who reside in such places are often those who have become most adept at swinging deals, of “give and take” and of compromise. No, the bravest men and women are most often found in Gulags, North Korean labor camps, or Chinese reeducation “centers.” Or in front of firing squads—or tanks. These people are in those places not just because of what they said, but because they refused to ‘unsay’ it. Most could have capitulated and remained, if not free, at least safe.
Like millions of people throughout history who refused to betray their faith, their ideals or their countrymen, they knew that when you betray the truth, you betray not just yourself, but all those who share that truth and have fought for it shoulder to shoulder with you. They echo the truth spoken by Benjamin Franklin two hundred years ago;
“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security,
deserves neither liberty nor security.”
I would add:
“He who would trade anybody else’s liberty for some temporary
security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”
From newspapers, from op eds, from Italian victims and from international judicial review bodies we hear that there is tyranny today in Italy and it resides in the judicial system. This is the same system that recently sentenced six seismologists to prison for failing to predict an earthquake—a feat that science still regards as impossible.
This is the same judicial system that exonerated a man for the rape of an 18 year old girl because she was wearing tight jeans, which the court opined could not have been removed without the girl’s assistance. Therefore, the rape, I mean sex, had to be consensual. This was the decision of the Italian Supreme Court, not a college fraternity ethics committee. The decisions of the courts, the inconceivable reasoning, and the contorted logic validates the general perception that the Italian judicial system is largely an archaic, byzantine, misogynistic 'good-old-boy' network which depends on coercion, superstition and political deals to achieve their ends. Few people with knowledge of the Italian system (and who are not a part of it) would dispute that statement. There are, of course, notable exceptions and honorable judges, but as a rule, ‘Italian justice’ is a contradiction in terms. It remains that way because nobody has yet stood in front of the tanks.
It is not politically expedient for the Italian judicial system to endorse the truth of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s innocence, because it will expose police and judicial misconduct, perjury, and evidence tampering. It will, they believe, embarrass “the system,” and hurt national prestige. (Not realizing that their current strategy is devastating their global credibility.) While Knox remains safely (or so it is hoped) ensconced in a country where evidence and rule of law win out in the vast majority of cases, Sollecito remains under Italian control, awaiting his fate. And Sollecito is apparently the system's best hope of saving face.
Sollecito has, of course, steadfastly held to the truth that he and Amanda were together the night that burglar Rudy Guede slaughtered Meredith Kercher, stole her money, keys and phone, then danced and bought drinks with her money until 4:30 a.m. before fleeing to Germany—again using Meredith’s money. The Italians need Sollecito to say Amanda wasn’t with him the night of the murder; or have him at least allow the possibility she might not have been with him. Though he has steadfastly stated that she was with him, it seems like so little to ask. But it could steal twenty two years of an innocent woman’s life.
During four years in prison, Raffaele never wavered in his dedication to the truth and to his and Amanda’s innocence. This was bravery, this was honor. After his exoneration, Raffaele co-wrote a book entitled “Honor Bound,” in which he defined his unfailing defense of Amanda and the truth as “honor” in the face of extortionate pressure to change his story. The pressure came both from the Italian judicial system and his family to turn on Amanda and lie; destroying her “alibi” in return for his freedom. According to Raffaele's own book, since the first days of the horrible case, his family has chosen the easy way out--capitulate to the corrupt prosecution, perjure yourself and escape.He never did so. I have always admired him for that and always will.
While working on “Honor Bound,” Raffaele stayed in my home with my family and me for a short time. He is a delightful, gentle, intelligent young man and we enjoyed his visit, as well as visiting with his family. At that time, we thought the horrendous ordeal was over and that tyranny had been held at bay by truth, honor and bravery. But now the Sword of Damocles over Raffaele’s head has returned. In a stunning move, the Italian courts overturned the innocent verdicts of Sollecito and Knox (something legally impossible in most western or otherwise civilized nations), and are now -- according to well-placed sources--pressuring Raffaele to separate his defense from Amanda’s. The purpose is obvious; once separated, they can use Raffaele against Amanda. And this time, there are indications that Raffaele’s strength to resist may be waning. After all this time, why lose courage now? I might have an insight.
In 1996, I was diagnosed with cancer. I went through a year of particularly rigorous chemotherapy that was almost miraculously successful. In the years that followed, though, I had to face the threat of possible renewed chemotherapy, and not once did I believe I had the strength to go through it again. Returning to chemo is much more psychologically difficult than starting it the first time—because after the first time you know what you’re in for. I decided that the only reason I would endure chemotherapy again was for the benefit of my family. Returning to prison is likely the same. What was “doable” for Raffaele once, is likely inconceivable to him now.
Now, many in Raffaele’s family, two aunts and a sister in particular, have turned on Amanda (and her supporters) with inexplicable malice and ignoble vitriol, apparently in hopes of trading the freedom of their innocent loved one for the freedom of someone else’s innocent child. Raffaele remains largely silent in Amanda’s defense and the defense of his own supporters against the lies of his family, and one wonders whether he has the strength left to continue to fight the tyranny of the Italian judicial system or his family. Ironically, the women in Raffaele’s family seem to have taken control of him, while simultaneously complaining that he was easily manipulated by a woman.
Certainly, though my wife, my family and I have suffered dearly as a result of our defense of Amanda and Raffaele, I cannot claim to have as much at risk as he does. I am often asked what I would do if I was in his situation. I can tell you truthfully that I don’t know. But I can tell you equally truthfully that I know what “right” is, and what I hope I would do: Fight the tyranny, not just for himself, not just for Amanda, but for the hundreds and thousands who come after him. Raffaele was incarcerated partially because in the decades before his unjust persecution, others capitulated rather than risk the consequences of fighting the tyranny—and they bear partial responsibility for what happened to him. Absent adherence to what is right, the tyranny gains strength from the capitulation of others. It is a vampire which feeds on fear.
But really, the question of what I or anybody else would do in the same situation is a red herring. It’s a misdirection intended to change the subject from the topic of “what is right,” to “what is excusable.” The difference between the two is immense. Ultimately, one doesn’t have to be in someone’s shoes to know what is right or wrong. In fact, frequently, being a healthy distance away endows one with a clearer vision of right and wrong. When the Titanic was sinking, some men dressed as women to board life boats. At the time, some men were able to rationalize that atrocity. Whether or not others would have done the same thing has no bearing on whether the act was right or wrong.
We build monuments to those who stand up to tyranny and injustice. We do so not simply in admiration of their character but because they made the world better. These are people who went to jail—or died, because they refused to be complicit anymore in the tyranny and injustice under which they were forced to live. Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, are among that group. No monuments are raised to those who capitulate. Their memory lives on only as cautions against human failure.
Whether Italian judicial pressure and the threat of more than twenty years in prison ultimately causes an innocent man to implicate an innocent woman in a crime with which neither had anything to do, remains to be seen. But if it happens, it doesn’t change the truth, it simply weighs Italy’s justice system a little lower in the muck. In 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated because of his fight for freedom and equal rights for African Americans. The year he died, he summed up his decision not to accept injustice;
“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men
purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.”
When a person capitulates to save themselves from incarceration, only half of that person remains free. That part of themselves that houses weakness and self-interest escapes prison and remains with them forever. Their courage and their ideals, however, hear the doors to the prison clang behind them, never to return. In nations where this is allowed to happen, the innocent fill the prisons, and the guilty roam the streets. Still, I do not believe Italy has any intention of imprisoning Sollecito for a crime most rational people understand was committed by Rudy Guede, alone.
I, at least five other retired FBI agents, many DNA scientists and dozens of other subject-matter experts have seen the evidence in the Kercher murder and know the truth. In reality, it's not a complicated case. Only the investigation was (unnecessarily) complicated. The evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Raffaele and Amanda are completely innocent and while I hurt for Raffaele, I will never, never turn on the truth. I will champion Raffaele and Amanda's innocence and oppose what I know to be lies, regardless of the reason(s) they are told or who tells them.
It was such wonderful times celebrating the “Not Guilty” verdicts with Raffaele, his family, and those who put their lives and livelihood on the line in Raffaele’s and Amanda’s defense. But, as Dr. King once again so perfectly summed-up,
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of
challenge and controversy.”
The Raffaele I know would never betray the truth. In his heart, in his soul, he is an honest man dedicated to what is right and what is true. The Raffaele I know would never cede control of his life and future to his family and his lawyer. But every man has his limits. It is his choice now to either to rise to the occasion and fight injustice, or cave to blackmail and become part of it. I remember going to dinner one night, just Raffaele and me, and he mused aloud, “Why do [the Italian courts] get away with things like this?” I responded then as I do now; “Because people allow them to. Because people give in to extortion.”
It is now, ultimately, that Raffaele faces his denouement. I maintain my confidence in his character. Regardless, the world will soon learn whether he still has the courage to step in front of the tanks, or whether he has become an obsequious extension of the four women in his life and his father. If the latter is true, the answer to how the Italian courts "get away" with injustice will be found in his own mirror, and we will all watch in horrified sadness as honor is bound.
'If there's no evidence against her, she's obviously guilty.'
For months we have waited for the Italian appellate court in Florence to provide its “motivations” for their startling decision to overturn the unanimous October 2011 innocent verdicts of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. The appellate court had the exact same evidence in front of them as did the court which exonerated the two, with the addition of several pieces of evidence that even further bolstered the innocence of Knox and Sollecito. But unimaginably, the Florence court (apparently at the behest of the Italian Court of Cassation) convicted them. And all it took was the suspension of natural law.
The motivation document (in Italian jurisprudence) attempts to explain the decision of the court. This document is in, and after hearing only the first assertion of the translated report, I can tell you that just that one argument has convinced me. Guilty is the proper verdict. I have never seen a more convincing, clear and irrefutable document. “Guilty” of a crime which still victimizes Meredith Kercher and her family. Guilty of a crime which is as old as mankind itself, and tears at the fabric of society: The court of Alessandro Nencini is guilty of Judicial Corruption.
The “motivation” document produced by Judge Nencini alleges that Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were able to do something that no criminal in the history of mankind has ever before been able to accomplish: Selectively clean up their own invisible DNA, leaving only the DNA of the man they wished to “frame.” To do so, they obviously had to possess the power to see DNA with their naked eyes, know whose it was (something the first Italian court famously couldn’t do with microscopes), and remove only their own. And most importantly, they had to clean the DNA from a bloody room without leaving a mark where the blood had been disturbed. This is like removing the underlying primer coat from a car’s paint without disturbing the paint job itself. It’s like doing a heart transplant through a sweat gland. It’s like removing Jesus from DaVinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper,” without anybody noticing. Even Batman’s foes never achieved this level of sophistication. You have to give Amanda and Raffaele credit for ingenuity. Or the Italian court credit for imagination.
Here is a rough translation of the court's logic with my underlined comments.
"It has been much discussed, especially by the defense of the defendants, whether a “selective” clean-up of the crime scene is possible by the authors of the crime. This possibility was denied on the basis of the empirical impossibility of a “naked eye” to identify and select the singular traces, often invisible, to destroy. It was also excluded that someone in the cottage of Via della Pergola, on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, after having committed the murder of Meredith Kercher, could “selectively clean” the traces left by the authors of the crime, destroying all of the traces of the defendants in question, and leaving at the crime scene all of those traces that would have lead investigators to Rudy Hermann Guede."
[Translation: Yes, we have heard for years that selective cleaning of DNA at a crime scene is an "impossibility," and people simply can't "see" DNA with the naked eye. We get that. But then how is it possible that Amanda and Raffaele's DNA weren't present at the place they killed Meredith?]
"The affirmation, if apparently agreeable theoretically, must be correlated with the case in question, of which there are certain peculiarities."
[Translation: Even if it's theoretically impossible, we must look at this impossibility in relation to this case.]
" It is peculiar, for example, that no traces of Amanda Marie Knox were found in the cottage of Via Della Pergola if not those which are refer-able to the murder."
[Translation: It is peculiar that no traces of Amanda Knox were found in the cottage in which she lived. That would be peculiar if the statement was true--but it's not. There were many traces of Amanda in the cottage--that were admitted into evidence. Just none in the victim's room where the murder occurred. How he can get away with that lie is a mystery.]
"The Court retains that in fulfilling its duty, it must limit itself to a reasoning that is founded upon objective facts;"
[Just not SCIENTIFIC facts]
"An argument characteristically objective that emerged procedurally was evidence that, after the murder of Meredith Kercher, selective or not, there was a clean-up of the traces of the murder, and a maneuvering of the body of poor Meredith into a position (between the armoire and the wall of the room and covered by a duvet)"
[None of which is supported by a scintilla of physical evidence or testimony]
"...that certainly doesn’t correspond with the position in which the girl died, at the end of the aggressive phase. Someone spent much time within the cottage on the night between November 1st and 2nd, 2007, altering the crime scene and destroying numerous traces."
[Without leaving evidence of doing so.]
"The evidence provided by the Scientific Police proves this incontestable truth, which the reasoning must take into consideration."
[Translation: Amanda and Raffaele, if they killed Meredith, would have left behind evidence of their presence. But no evidence of their presence was there. This is a problem. So....]
1. Either it is possible (against scientific fact) to selectively clean DNA, or Amanda and Raffaele are innocent.
2. We have already decided that Amanda and Raffaele are guilty.
3. Therefore, the only conclusion left is that it MUST be possible to selectively clean DNA from a crime scene.
Extra credit: Without using blood stains of the victim; locate 3 separate DNA profiles in this photo (identify DNA donor by first and last name), circle their location. Show your work. You have five minutes.
This "logic" is mind-blowing and simply shameful. In order to believe these court motivations, one is required to believe the impossible. This is not an unprecedented requirement in Italian courts. In 2012, a court in L’Aquila, Italy suspended reality and convicted six seismologists of manslaughter for not predicting a killer earthquake. The fact that no earthquake in human history has ever been accurately predicted did not cause the court pause. Or embarrassment. Or shame. The seismologists were sentenced to 6 years in prison, each.
There are only two explanations for arguing the impossible in the motivations: Idiocy or corruption.
I reject the idiocy argument. No human being who possesses the intelligence to study law and rise to sit on a judicial bench, could look at this crime scene and believe the argument of selective and undetectable microscopic cleaning. In fact, I suspect that Nencini, rather than being an imbecile, is quite politically savvy.
No, this is a pre-determined court decision, made in contravention of science and every piece of reliable evidence. What’s the word for that?
Why did they convict? Ah, that’s where the report’s title “Motivations” is a misnomer. For it simply tells us ‘how’ and ‘what’ of the corruption, but not the ‘why.’ Ironically, the “motivations” report ignores the real motivations of the court in framing Amanda and Raffaele. Likely, it involves embarrassment, nationalism, anti-Americanism, money, protectionism or provincialism, or a combination of several. But the ‘why’ is less important than the corruption itself.
The only “idiocy” which manifests itself in this travesty is the belief that the world will look at this decision and not instantly recognize it for what it is—thuggery. It is the kind of idiocy that allows Kim Jung Un to believe that people outside of North Korea accept that he is a beloved leader because his people sing his praises. He hopes we don't notice that they do so at gunpoint. It is the idiocy of a basic underestimation of the reasonableness of the rest of the world. It is also provincialism.
One of the court’s statements says; “It is not believable that a group sexual intercourse had started. This hypothesis is not consistent with the personality of the English girl.” That it was equally (and demonstrably) inconsistent with the personality of the American girl apparently did not matter. It just didn’t register on the court’s Richter scale. This kind of provincialism is Donald Sterling-quality prejudice masquerading as legal jargon. Don't confuse official language with truth. Al Capone gave out business cards which said he was a "Used Furniture Dealer."
The vast majority of Italians with whom I regularly correspond fight for real justice and reject this verdict, hoped it wouldn’t come, but ultimately suspected it might. Likely, they just didn’t expect that it would be this outlandish. They are doing what they can to fight a corrupt system, and I admire them. But there are limits to what you can achieve when one side has the ability to suspend scientific reality at will.
When decisions are repeatedly handed down which fly in the face of science and known fact, and innocents are imprisoned apparently to protect cronies or institutions, it results in an appearance of third-world corruption, or mafia tactics. This primitive, crude and dishonorable verdict is more evidence of a cancer undeserved by the fine people of Italy, a country which was the first to bring the hope of justice for the common man to the entire world.
This unprincipled decision has shaken, and will continue to shake to the core the world’s belief in the justice of Italy's legal system. And we saw it coming. You know, maybe the court in L’Aquila got it right after all. Maybe earthquakes are predictable.
Damage done to Italian courts by L'Aquila earthquake and Knox verdicts.
At the request of Jacob, his wife Miriam and Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman, House Subcommittee on Human Rights, House Foreign Affairs Committee, I provided the following Investigative Report to Congressman Smith's office. It details the illegal detention of Mr. Ostreicher as well as the inhumane conditions of his captivity. The two photographs above were taken one year apart. The photo on the left is Jacob within days of his arrest, and the photo on the right is Jacob last week, 75 pounds thinner. Time is of the essence.
Last week, Congressman Smith forwarded this report to the U.S. State Department who in turn, presented it to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
JACOB OSTREICHER is a citizen of the United States of America who went to Bolivia to manage (in the short term) an agricultural company dedicated to rice production in Santa Cruz De La Sierra, Bolivia. At no time did Mr. Ostreicher or his company violate any law; Bolivian, international or American. Even so, without specific charge and without opportunity to obtain bail or even plead his innocence, he has been arrested and incarcerated at a prison in Bolivia for (at this writing) over a year. The prison does not meet international standards for humanitarian conditions or treatment, and there is no indication and little hope that Mr. Ostreicher will receive a hearing for bail, or even a trial in which to answer the unsubstantiated allegations. His incarceration is for all intents and purposes, open-ended.
All indications point to the almost inescapable conclusion that Ostreicher is in prison because his farming endeavor showed the potential of causing embarrassment for the Evo Morales government. It is an obscene irony that Jacob, whose mother was a ‘Holocaust’ survivor, is now, 67 years later, imprisoned in a squalid prison he may not survive, simply for reasons of political expediency.
The arrest of Mr. Ostreicher, the conduct of the Bolivian government and his continued incarceration without legal recourse are violations of Bolivian law, international law, and international standards of human rights.
This investigation was conducted by Stephen Moore, a 25 year FBI Agent who retired from the Bureau in 2008. Mr. Moore’s expertise is in the investigation of terrorism and violent crime, but he has also investigated narcotics trafficking and major fraud. Mr. Moore, as supervisor of the Los Angeles FBI’s Extra-Territorial Squad, Al Qaeda Squad and as a term Assistant Legal Attaché to the Bahamas also has extensive experience in working with and understanding the justice systems of other governments.
At the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand, as well as individual seminars in Manila, the Philippines, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Honolulu, Hawaii, Moore has instructed police personnel from approximately 30 different nations and lectured on such topics as fundamentals of investigation, rights of the accused, and terrorism.
Supervisory Special Agent Moore operated in approximately one dozen separate countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean. At one point, he was responsible for the investigation of all acts of terrorism against the United States which occurred in Asia and Pakistan. He supervised agents positioned in (among other countries) Thailand, The Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Greece.
During his tenure in the FBI, Special Agent Moore also investigated alleged police misconduct, at least once recommending prosecution against the chief of police of a particular municipality for malfeasance, cover-up of illegal activities and falsification of investigative documentation in order to protect himself.
Mr. Moore, as a Special Agent, received multiple awards from the United States Department of Justice and the FBI for excellence in investigations.
INVESTIGATIVE STEPS TAKEN
Mr. Moore has obtained all available court documents, all defense documents, the entire ‘investigator’s book’ of the Bolivian police, reviewed all relevant history on Mr. Ostreicher’s activities in Bolivia, reviewed company records, and traveled to Bolivia to interview Mr. Ostreicher and other individuals. He spent three days in Palmasola prison and spoke to members of the former government, other prisoners, and attorneys who defend the incarcerated at Palmasola prison.
Besides the Ostreicher case, Mr. Moore has donated his time to the defense of several Americans and foreign nationals wrongly incarcerated in foreign prisons, including Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito (an Italian citizen), who were released after four years in prison for a murder with which they had nothing to do.
Jacob Ostreicher is a 53 year old father of five and grandfather of eleven. He is married to Miriam and has for years run a successful flooring company in his home city of New York City, USA. Jacob is an Orthodox Jew and the practice of his religion is demonstrably paramount in his life. This investigator has spent many days with Mr. Ostreicher, his wife and family and has spoken with many of his associates. Mr. Ostreicher’s dedication to his religion, his ideals and his values are believed to be unimpeachable. He is known in his community as a generous, honest businessman.
During World War II, the Ostreicher family fled Nazi-held territory. Jacob’s own mother is a Holocaust survivor. The Ostreichers, in an attempt to avoid losing their life savings, moved their assets to Switzerland during the war. Most of the family ultimately immigrated to America, where Jacob was born. However, they left their investments in Switzerland, and in 2008, the family trust was run by one André Zolty, an attorney and investment advisor who the family has trusted for decades.
In 2008, the United States economy was in a deep recession and Mr. Ostreicher’s flooring business was experiencing a drastic reduction in business. In speaking with Mr. Zolty about this, Jacob learned that Zolty had recently begun to invest in a rice-growing venture in Bolivia.
Zolty, who resides in Switzerland, had hired a law student to do legal research for him. Her name was Claudia Liliana Rodriguez Espitia (“Rodriguez”). Rodriguez claimed to be a wealthy Colombian national whose mother, she said, was one of the most prestigious judges in Colombia. She had traveled to Switzerland to obtain a law degree, and each day arrived at school in a chauffeur-driven vehicle. It is unclear whether the idea for rice farming in Bolivia originated with Zolty or Rodriguez, but ultimately, Zolty gathered a group of investors and hired Rodriguez to move to Bolivia and manage the endeavor due to her overall competence, her familiarity with the culture and her ability to speak the language. She was given power of attorney and began buying land, hiring workers and commenced with the process of deforestation of the future farmland.
This was a complicated process that involved procuring thousands of acres of forested and non-forested land, deforesting the land, building facilities including silos, warehouses and residential facilities for the workers, as well as contracting for trucking, packaging and other commercial services. All moneys sent to Rodriguez were wired through the UBS Bank of Switzerland and were processed through the Central Bank of Bolivia in order that the money, documentation and procedures were legitimate and above suspicion. Records support the legitimacy of these transfers. Approximately $20 million USD was advanced to Rodriguez in the initial years of the venture. It was during this time that Jacob became a minor investor in the project.
FIRST SIGNS OF TROUBLE
The investors expected standard documentation of purchases and outlays, as well as general accountability and financial records, but these became increasingly difficult to obtain from Rodriguez. After over a year of this difficulty the investors became concerned. Zolty requested that Ostreicher travel to Bolivia and investigate the situation, which he agreed to do.
Upon arrival in Santa Cruz, Ostreicher found a disaster. Rodriguez had disappeared with millions of the dollars wired to her. While some land had been purchased and significant farming had occurred, the vast majority of the money had simply disappeared.
Many of the properties allegedly purchased with investor money had not been procured at all. Employees had not been paid; equipment which should have been purchased was instead financed, allowing Rodriguez to pocket the majority of the money. Some of the purchased land was actually purchased “personally” by Rodriguez in her name. The vast rice farming venture was producing less rice than investors had paid for (yet still a substantial amount) and was in essence, a shell of the company the investors had funded.
EXTENT OF LOSS
After researching and investigating, Ostreicher found the following information about the actions of Rodriguez:
1. Only 1/3 of the purchased land had been deforested, though investors paid to have the entirety of the land deforested.
2. $3 million USD was provided to Rodriguez for the construction of silos and warehouses. However, the structures which had been built were structurally unsafe and eventually failed and/or collapsed. It is likely in the estimate of this investigator that Rodriguez pocketed approximately $2 million USD by utilizing substandard builders and material.
3. The second parcel of land purchased had been purchased in Rodriguez’ own name and at half the price she told investors she paid. The remaining amount of the provided money was missing.
4. The third purchased parcel was also put in her Rodriguez’ own name. However, she attempted to purchase this land with a personal check for the equivalent of $3.5 million USD. She then upgraded the parcel with $2.5 million USD of improvements for the purpose of growing rice. However, her personal check was returned for insufficient funds. She delayed the owners of the land by showing proof of business ties with a Swiss investment group and promising a check from them. Eventually, however, the owner filed suit against her.
5. Rodriguez had shown proof to the investors that absentee-owned property in Bolivia must be used for agricultural or ranching purposes of some kind or it would be confiscated by the Bolivian government (true). In order to meet this requirement, she received money to purchase 5,000 cows for $1.6 million USD. Ostreicher found that no cows had been purchased, but that Rodriguez had obtained the wired funds in cash.
6. Hundreds of thousands of dollars wired to pay for machinery, equipment and chemicals were pocketed by Rodriguez and the equipment, etc., was obtained on credit.
It is the opinion of this investigator that the behavior and actions of Rodriguez are consistent with the modus operandi of an experienced perpetrator of fraud. In large fraudulent schemes, some of the money received is used to conduct the business as promised so as to reduce suspicion and ensure that additional funds are received from the investors. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the money is taken by the individual(s) perpetrating the fraud. Indications are that Zolty may not have conducted a complete background investigation on Rodriguez before entrusting her with the project.
As a result of Ostreicher’s findings, Zolty transferred power of attorney from Rodriguez to Ostreicher and asked him to remain in Bolivia and sort out the problems. Ostreicher agreed and took positive steps:
1. Mr. Ostreicher found that inexplicably, the company which Rodriguez had (LAGRO SRL) was in her name only, and so he was unable to dissolve the corporation. However, he took steps to limit the liability and further involvement of the investors. To wit:
a. A team of lawyers began compiling case and initiating civil charges against Rodriguez.
b. On 3/20/2011, Ostreicher took out a large advertisement in the main Bolivian newspapers (See Appendix III) with a notification that Rodriguez did not and could not represent the interests of the company, and offered a reward for information on her whereabouts. (He was almost immediately contacted by other individuals and companies in Bolivia and Brazil who were victims of Rodriguez, one of which had been taken for the equivalent of $1 million USD).
2. In the name of the investors, Ostreicher formed a new company named “COLIAGRO” to differentiate themselves from the previous company, which was being operated by Rodriguez, who was defrauding the owners.
In this investigator’s experience, none of the remedial actions taken by Ostreicher after reaching the conclusions about Rodriguez are consistent with the actions of any individual involved in narcotics trafficking or money laundering. In fact, these actions would be highly counter-productive and risky for someone involved in narcotics trafficking or money laundering.
While cleaning up the financial chaos caused by Rodriguez, Jacob’s attorney had been contacted by the owner of the property which Rodriguez had attempted to purchase with a personal $3.5 million USD check, upon which she had then made $2.5 million USD of improvements. The owner’s name was “Ozzie Dorado.” Dorado seemed to be very reasonable after learning of Ostreicher’s situation.
An agreement was reached wherein COLIAGRO would be allowed to harvest the rice planted on the disputed property in consideration of their substantial investment in improving the property. Following the harvest, Dorado would negotiate with COLIAGRO for the sale of the property.
BOLIVIAN INVESTIGATION #1
FELCN (Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Narcotrafico “Special Force to Fight Drug Trafficking”) investigators appeared at COLIAGRO offices and alleged that the owner of the land which Rodriguez had attempted to buy, and that COLIAGRO was currently farming was owned by a drug dealer. The FELCN had found COLIAGRO workers and equipment on that land, and they conducted a search of COLIAGRO’s and Ostreicher’s office and requested a deposition from him. Ostreicher agreed and explained the entire situation, providing open access to all company documents. The FELCN investigators were unfamiliar with Rodriguez and her involvement in the land owned by Dorado. With Ostreicher’s help, they were able to locate and arrest Rodriguez.
ALLEGED “LINK” TO NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING
Unknown to Ostreicher was that Rodriguez had initiated a romantic relationship with Dorado which was unknown to Ostreicher. This relationship is the likely reason he allowed Rodriguez so long to come up with the purchase money for the land before filing suit. Also unknown to Ostreicher that Dorado’s brother, Maximiliano Dorado, co-owner of the disputed property was a narcotics fugitive from Brazil who had allegedly murdered prison guards during an escape.
The prosecutors in charge of the case, Marina Flores and Alvo laTorre were able to arrest Dorado and Rodriguez, after which they deported Maximiliano Dorado to Brazil. They thanked Ostreicher for his assistance and advised that he would be able to re-establish farming on the disputed land within a matter of days.
BOLIVIAN INVESTIGATION #2
At this point, and for unknown reasons, the two original prosecutors were removed from the case and two others appointed: Janet Flores Luna and Roberto Acha.
The new prosecutors inexplicably raided the COLIAGRO offices and seized equipment and property at the farms valued in the millions of dollars. They required a second deposition, and Jacob became concerned because it did not seem to them that the facts of the matter were of primary importance, but they seemed to be working on questions and topics which pointed toward a pre-conceived conclusion which involved the seizure of COLIAGRO’s assets.
Following this declaration/deposition, Ostreicher traveled to LaPaz to discuss his concerns with the U.S. Embassy in that city. This investigator finds that action at odds with any possible actions which would be taken by an American involved in illegal narcotics trafficking. The embassy saw no reason that Ostreicher should be concerned about the Bolivian government actions. Following this deposition/declaration, Ostreicher returned to New York for personal business and returned to Bolivia, which further establishes that his intent and purpose in Bolivia was a legitimate business, and that he felt he had nothing to fear (at least as far as criminal suspicion) from the Bolivian justice system.
A third deposition was then requested for a specific day; which turned out to be a Jewish holiday on which Jacob had planned to be with family in New York. He had pre-purchased airline tickets, and the prosecutors contacted the airline to verify that the tickets had already been purchased. Jacob then offered to provide the deposition prior to his departure for New York.
This declaration was conducted on June 3, 2011 at the FELCN office and lasted only two hours, in stark contrast to the much longer previous declarations. However, at the conclusion of this declaration, Ostreicher was arrested and placed in a cell with no chair, no bed, and no latrine facilities. Its concrete floor was covered in human feces. Jacob spent four days in the cell, during which time he was mocked and laughed at by prosecutor Velarde Luna, who asked Ostreicher if he was “comfortable” on the floor of the concrete cell and advised him that he was not, he should contact his lawyer. Laughing, she walked away.
Jacob was not told at the time why he had been arrested, and he has not been free since that arrest.
It is common practice among investigators world-wide to create an “investigator’s book” or “investigation book” which details each step taken in the investigation as well as each document, evidence receipt, etc. which is collected as a result of the investigation. The FBI uses a variation of this format known as the “Case File.”
An investigator’s book or case file is ideally a serialized document which will outline the steps of the investigation, and give insight and clarity to the investigative steps taken by the detectives, prosecutors and/or other involved persons. The serialization is necessary to prevent “removals/extractions” or “additions” to the file in order to bolster the case or remove problematic investigative steps, including falsification of evidence, changing of dates, etc. In the FBI, the serialization of a file is necessary inviolate, as one of the main function of the FBI is the investigation of allegations of police misconduct.
This investigator has now reviewed approximately 1,800 pages of the “investigator’s book” on the case of Jacob Ostreicher. Several issues were immediately apparent:
1. The investigator’s book is not serialized. Due to this omission, the date of entry for each document cannot be verified, and the reader cannot be assured that documents have been entered out of order, that documents have not been removed, and that documents have not been added when expedient for the investigator’s goals/motives.
2. The book merges the investigation of at least seven persons without showing connections between each. It therefore inescapably leads to the incorrect conclusion that if one individual in the file is guilty of a crime, that the others are too. This is an incorrect and potentially tragic practice.
3. There is no evidence, testimony or documents which show in any way that there was a connection between Jacob Ostreicher and the main suspects in the crime, and certainly no connection between their activities.
4. In 1,800 pages, there is not a single testimonial allegation by any individual that Jacob Ostreicher was in any way shape or form involved in any crime.
5. The “book” documents the seizure of literally millions of US Dollars of rice farming equipment, for reasons not fully explained. The whereabouts of this equipment is unknown.
6. With the exception of his depositions/declarations, Ostreicher’s name appears in less than a dozen of 1,800 pages.
7. At no point in any interview is Ostreicher implicated by any person in any crime.
8. In 1,800 pages, this investigator could find no indication that Jacob Ostreicher committed a crime, or was even accused of a crime by anyone but the prosecutors
LACK OF FINANCIAL RECORDS
Of greatest concern to this investigator, and most indicative of the charges and the investigation of the alleged crime, there are no financial records among the 1,800 pages.
This is a crucial, inexplicable and catastrophic omission. Mr. Ostreicher has been accused (though never charged) with “money laundering” and “illicit enrichment.” Both are financial crimes. Yet, there is a complete lack of ANY forensic examination of the finances of the various individuals except for anecdotal accusations. Not a single spread-sheet, not a single flow-chart, bank record, check, not a single link page showing where money came in and where it went out are present. Not a deposit slip, not a flow chart, not even a single ATM receipt. One could no more diagnose a financial crime without financial records than a doctor could diagnose leukemia without a blood test.
The investigation of money laundering is a complex and records-intensive endeavor. The stark lack of any apparent financial investigation at all leads one to wonder how any prosecutor has any reason to believe that Jacob Ostreicher has committed any crime.
FIRST BAIL HEARING
Prosecution Allegation #1:
The morning after Mr. Ostreicher’s arrest, he was brought before Judge Fernando Orellana.
In testimony before the court, prosecutor Janet Velarde Luna alleged that André Zolty, the principal of COLIAGRO was at that moment being investigated in Switzerland for money laundering. While making this claim, he held in his hand a document he inferred was the proof of this allegation.
INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS ALLEGATION #1:
ANDRÉ ZOLTY WAS NOT THEN, NOR HAS HE EVER BEEN UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR ANY CRIME. There is no evidence that André Zolty was then or ever has been under investigation for any crime for any reason by any organization.
This was verified by the Swiss National Police in a written affidavit the same week. (See Appendix III). The allegations made by Luna which led to Mr. Ostreicher’s initial incarceration were therefore demonstrably false and a knowing and intentional fabrication. No information existed in Switzerland or Bolivia which would have supported such a claim. Luna either made the story up, or checked Zolty’s background, found it flawless yet still lied to the court. This throws into doubt any further unsubstantiated statements by Luna or the prosecution team, in or out of court. It also casts a shadow on the motives of Luna and/or the Bolivian government.
Inexplicably, the court did not request any proof of Luna’s claim of Zolty’s connection with “money laundering.” Accepting an unsubstantiated allegation is a method of arbitrarily confining an individual.
Prosecution Allegation #2
Luna then alleged that “through investigation” the FELCN had determined that Ostreicher had planned to “flee the country” the next week.
INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS ALLEGATION #2:
Prosecutor Acha was told by Jacob that he had a pre-purchased ticket and was returning to New York to be with family during a religious observance with plans to immediately return to Bolivia and continue managing the affairs of COLIAGRO. Acha himself had verified this with the airline. It was known to Acha that Ostreicher had the ticket weeks before he (Ostreicher) knew that there was any official concern over COLIAGRO’s operations. Acha knew that this travel was not for the purposes of fleeing Bolivia, and such an assertion was again a knowing and intentional misstatement of fact. Again the judge did not ask for proof of the unfounded allegation which lends credence to the belief that the incarceration was arbitrary or pre-determined, and that the proceedings were in effect; a “show hearing.”
Prosecution Allegation #3
Luna alleged (again without providing any evidence to substantiate his claim) that Ostreicher was guilty of “associating with criminal organizations.”
INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS ALLEGATION #3:
Jacob Ostreicher’s testimony has been and remains, that he has never been in contact with any individual he knew to be part of a “criminal organization.” His communications with Ozzie Dorado were exclusively through his lawyer (Ostreicher does not speak Spanish and Dorado does not speak English).
No proof has ever been presented to indicate, and this investigator could find no reason to believe, that Ostreicher a) knew Ozzie Dorado was the brother of a drug fugitive, b) ever spoke to Dorado personally, or c) engaged in any discussions of any illegal transactions whatsoever.
Again, Luna intentionally and knowingly made an arbitrary, patently untrue statement without attempting to provide proof of any kind. Again, the court accepted the unsubstantiated allegation.
Finally, and possibly most egregiously, the judge opined that with cases of alleged money-laundering, the defendant must prove their innocence in court, rather than enjoying the international human right of being “innocent until proven guilty.” Even the Bolivian judicial system holds as a major tenet the presumed innocence of the accused. With this statement, the judge was clearly violating Bolivian law, international law, and common legal decency.
A major component in the decision to grant bail in the Bolivian justice system is the existence of “family” of the accused. (No weight is given to the location of the family). Luna, knowing that the statement was patently false, told the judge that Ostreicher did not have family.
INVESTIGATIVE FINDINGS ALLEGATION #4
Ostreicher is married, the father of five, and the grandfather of eleven. This investigator has personally viewed the birth certificates of the children and grandchildren, has met Ostreicher’s wife, son, daughter and mother. Yet the judge accepted the allegation on face value and Jacob was remanded to Palmasola Prison. (See “Palmasola Prison” section)
INVESTIGATIVE SUMMARY: FIRST HEARING
Without the slightest proof that a crime had even been committed, and with the use of knowingly false statements, Jacob Ostreicher was imprisoned without recourse.
During this hearing, Prosecutor Janet Velarde Luna used four substantial allegations to support her claim that Ostreicher should be denied bail. Each of the four statements was demonstrably false, and Luna either knew them to be false at the time or had no reason to believe that they were true. The bulk of the testimony in the first hearing consisted of simple perjury and there exists substantial evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge in the matter asked for no proof of the allegations and denied bail to Ostreicher. Therefore, the incarceration was arbitrary and capricious and illegal by the standards of Bolivia and by the standards of the international community.
This investigator has also reviewed the conclusions of a report created by the Swiss Federal Police (Fedpol) and addressed to the Bolivian Justice Ministry, dated June 7, 2011 in which they state categorically that there is no proof, nor even any indication of money laundering (or any other crime) by André Zolty or Jacob Ostreicher. This report, for reasons unknown, does not appear in the Bolivian investigative book.
Two hearings were scheduled, then cancelled or postponed with Jacob Ostreicher in the courtroom. It was not until September 23, 2011 that Mr. Ostreicher, after nearly four months in the squalid and violent prison known as Palmasola, was granted his only bail hearing.
At this hearing Ostreicher’s defense team were able to present documents to refute the false testimony of prosecutor Luna, and the judge ordered Jacob released on $100,000 Bolivianos bail (approximately$14,500 USD). However, without further proceedings or prior notice and before Jacob could be mustered out of Palmasola, the judge, Zenon Rodriguez reversed himself and rescinded the order to release Ostreicher. This investigator has been advised that Ostreicher’s attorney, Abel Montano was told by the judge himself that he had been threatened with arrest if he did not reverse his decision.
Ostreicher’s attorney Montano then appealed the decision to the appellate court which censured the judge and ordered him to explain why he had “illegally” reversed his decision. The judge held another hearing in which he enigmatically explained to the parties, “It is not my place to comment on any evidence that is presented in this case. I overstepped my boundaries.” That it is not a judge’s place to comment on evidence presented before him is a ludicrous statement. Yet Ostreicher was again held without bail. Days later, Montano removed himself as Ostreicher’s attorney. He told Ostreicher, that he too had received threats of arrest from the prosecutors. The judge, meanwhile, was promoted to an appellate court and is no longer on Jacob’s case.
Since that time, approximately 19 more hearings have been scheduled, and not a single hearing has gone forward. Two judges have recused themselves from the case, and multiple lawyers have taken Ostreicher’s case, only to later remove themselves.
On June 11, 2012, the most recent hearing almost began. A new judge inexplicably ordered the hearing to go forward, and the prosecutors, incensed at his apparent regard for Ostreicher’s rights ordered the judge to recuse himself from the case, or they would open a criminal investigation against him. The judge refused to recuse himself but refused also to let the hearing continue. He used a legal maneuver to send his ordered recusal to an appellate court which will delay the date of Ostreicher’s next hearing for approximately three months.
The Bolivian government has no intention of giving Ostreicher bail or a trial. Judges who have tried have been censured, threatened with arrest or transferred. Defense attorneys who advocate too strenuously for Ostreicher are threatened with arrest.
The warnings of arresting judges and defense attorneys are not idle threats. At Palmasola itself, there is a special wing built to house only judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. The fact that there are so many such prisoners that they require a separate wing is less indicative of corruption in the government (corruption is not actively penalized) as it is an indication of the zero tolerance for failure to cooperate with the government’s corruption.
Jacob Ostreicher is being held for political reasons, and his detention is arbitrary and capricious and illegal by Bolivian and international standards.
Following the initial hearing in which the prosecutor repeatedly perjured himself, Jacob Ostreicher was immediately transferred to Palmasola Prison, a facility which is in violation of the majority of the minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners, as adopted by the First United Nations congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders; Geneva 1955. Palmasola Prison is less a prison than it is a walled community of unsupervised criminals and political prisoners. This investigator sent three days in the prison interviewing Ostreicher, other prisoners and attorneys for the prisoners. It is difficult to describe Palmasola in strictly legal and unemotional terms. A dispassionate description of Palmasola Prison is as difficult as a dispassionate description of rape. The sheer violence and indifference to humanity raises in normal people a level of indignation and shock unknown to most of society.
Palmasola is best defined as a crowded ghetto populated by extremely violent criminals, uncharged innocents and political prisoners. Much like the ghetto of Warsaw during World War II, Palmasola is a crowded mini-city where the inmates are theoretically free to roam inside a fenced-in perimeter where the captors rarely venture. Unlike Warsaw, however, the majority of the residents of Palmasola are violent murderers and rapists.
PALMASOLA AND INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS FOR DETENTION
According to the First UN Congress of 1955:
“Untried prisoners shall be kept separate from convicted prisoners.”
Palmasola Prison operates in direct contravention of the First UN Congress of Detention, paragraph 8(b).
Jacob and other untried prisoners are intermingled with the entire prison population. Within the small cell block (or “pavilion”) in which he must pay to live, there are several untried political prisoners, as well as a wide variety of mass murderers, single murderers, serial rapists and violent drug offenders. This is in stark contravention of the UN requirement.
“Where sleeping accommodation is in individual cells or rooms, each prisoner shall occupy by night a cell or room by himself.”
“There shall be regular supervision by night, in keeping with the nature of the institution.”
“All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.”
“No prisoner shall be employed, in the service of the institution, in any disciplinary capacity.”
Palmasola Prison operates in direct contravention of Paragraphs 9(1), 9(2), 10 and 28(1), of the First UN Congress on Detention.
Prisoners at Palmasola are provided no cell, no indoor sleeping accommodations, nor any bedding or blankets. All prisoners are required to purchase or rent cells by the cartel of prisoners who run the prison from the inside.
When Jacob Ostreicher was transferred to Palmasola, he was literally “thrown into” the prison. The door to the men’s pavilion was opened and he was pushed in, with the door closing behind him. For five nights, Jacob was forced by prisoners to sleep outside, atop a mound of garbage at the far rear of the prison without bedding or shelter of any kind. During this time, he contracted a severe gastro-intestinal infection causing him diarrhea and vomiting for several days. He was unable to move from the garbage pile. No medical care was provided, no cell was provided during this time, and no help of any kind was offered during this first week of incarceration.
At the conclusion of the week, a prisoner had pity on Jacob and arranged for him to sleep in a “cell” which was exactly the size of a single mattress. This “cell” was in a highly-crowded sleeping area. This investigator talked to prisoners from Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Most were unable to “afford” to rent or buy a cell, (there are not enough cells and inside sleeping accommodations for all the prisoners), and therefore they sleep in the streets at night, or occasionally sleep in the Catholic chapel, in return for participating in services for a religion they do not follow.
“Supervision” at night, as well as during the day, is conducted by prisoners and not hired guards, in violation of the Geneva accords. Uniformed professional guards man only checkpoints and entry points to the individual prison wards of the facility. They venture into the prison only during meal hour and at roll call. This investigator never saw a uniformed officer inside the men’s prison in the three days he was inside the prison; except during meal and roll-call. However, roll-call is an activity which a prisoner may pay to avoid. Only those prisoners without the financial wherewithal to pay for exemption from roll-call are required to be counted. It leaves open the question as to whether roll-call itself is for prisoner accountability or for prison guard income purposes.
A prisoner-run organization known as “Disciplina Interna” (Internal Discipline) provides order and “security” inside the prison. The requirement for membership in the “Disciplina” is that the prisoner is a “lifer” or ‘prisoner sentenced to life in prison.’ The reason for this is apparently that it provides the prison cartel increased control over their security force. It also ensures that the very persons responsible for order and security inside the prison are in fact the most violent persons inside the prison. This investigator became aware that ‘Disciplina’ operatives were conducting surveillance on visitors and prisoners, providing a source of internal information for the prisoner cartel, charging money to ensure the safety of prisoners, stealing cash and valuables from other prisoners, and administering regular and routine physical beatings as part of their role in “maintaining order.” During the three day investigative foray into the prison, this investigator was approached by a ‘Disciplina’ operative (a murderer) who demanded money from him in order to ensure his safety and security while in the prison.
Prisoners who do not pay “protection” money are in grave danger. Statistically, between one and four prisoners are murdered at Palmasola (out of a population of 3,500) each month. These killings are predominantly categorized as “suicides,” though anecdotal evidence (stab wounds in the back, etc.) indicates that few if any are suicides. The day prior to the arrival of this investigator, another killing had occurred in the pavilion.
“All parts of an institution regularly used by prisoners shall be properly maintained and kept scrupulous clean at all times.”
“Corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offenses.”
“Punishment by close confinement or reduction of diet shall never be inflicted unless the medical officer has examined the prisoner and certified in writing that he is fit to sustain it.
“The medical officer shall visit daily prisoners undergoing such punishments….”
Palmasola Prison operates in direct contravention of Paragraph 14, 31, 32(1) and (3) of the First UN Congress on Detention.
Palmasola Prison is filthy. Raw sewage runs through the center of some of the streets, open garbage pits have been created throughout the institution, insects of all kinds, (especially mosquitoes) are rife. There are no apparent sanitary precautions in the creation of the prison food; a gruel-like soup made in an open-air kitchen over open fires, immediately adjacent to the main prison garbage dump.
None of the discipline cells, where this investigator witnessed as many as a dozen unfed inmates being held, have latrine facilities, running water, or light. No prisoners in the cells are fed, and they depend upon the concern of fellow prisoners to obtain food. This investigator could find not a single prisoner who believed that there was a doctor assigned to the prison in any capacity, with the possible exception that one of the prisoners might have been a doctor at one point.
“The prison administration shall provide for the careful selection of every grade of the personnel, since it is on their integrity, humanity, professional capacity and personal suitability for the work that the proper administration of the institutions depends.”
The operation of, and especially the operators of Palmasola Prison literally mock the intent of Paragraph 46 of the First UN Congress on Detention. The uniformed guard force at Palmasola appears to be uniformly corrupt.
During the three days of investigation in the prison, this investigator was cheated, robbed, mocked and taunted by uniformed professional prison guards. While this investigator advised the personnel at the prison by written note that he spoke no Spanish, he does have a functional, if basic, understanding of the language. With the supposed freedom to speak without being understood by the American, the guards mocked the “Gringo” to other prisoners and visitors. When having one’s arm stamped to enter the prison (standard procedure) a number is written on the arm in felt pen. When this investigator presented his arm for marking, the guard told the nearby visitors and guards (in Spanish), “I’ll write the gringo’s number in green, not black.” Much laughter ensued.
All visitors to the prison are required to pay a $5 Boliviano fee at each gate. Not one time was I allowed pass a checkpoint for a mere $5 Bolivianos. Each time, more was demanded, from an extra Boliviano to as much as twice the entry fee. No reason was given, and when I argued, I was ordered to move on or be thrown out of the prison. The other visitors told me it was an expected occurrence, and that the guards pocket the difference.
Inside the prison, all manner of merchandise and contraband is openly available for purchase, from knives and tools to cocaine and prostitutes. The prostitutes (which operate openly in the prison) are women from the local town of Santa Cruz De La Sierra who pay guards for the opportunity to ply their trade with the prisoners, as well as inmates from the women’s prison at Palmasola who reportedly pay the guards the equivalent of $1 USD per day of prostitution in the men’s prison.
Cocaine was available for open sale and use at the price of $3 Bolivianos for one dose, or two doses for $5 Bolivianos. This investigator witnessed the open use of the purchased cocaine. Soft drinks are also available as is a multitude of food and snack items. (Coca Cola sells for $10 Bolivianos, making cocaine half the price of a cola drink. Principles of supply and demand–which are rigorously correct inside of a closed society such as a prison--indicate therefore that the cocaine is more plentiful than Coca Cola.) ALL these commodities, including the cocaine, are imported to the prison by guards who are paid to smuggle the materials. No other explanation adequately accounts for the presence of the contraband and the non-enforcement of rules against it. No attempt was ever observed by this investigator of prisoners attempting to conceal illegal behavior, leading to the conclusion that the enforcement of drug and other laws in the prison is rare, if it ever occurs.
One evening as the sun went down, shots rang out from multiple pistols. It was the guards firing indiscriminately into the air over the heads of the prisoners. One of the prisoners with whom I was speaking calmly explained that the guards frequently shoot over the prisoners’ heads to intimidate them during storms or darkness when the guards fear a prisoner might attempt to escape.
This investigator has been inside state, county and federal prisons in the United States, from small jails to the largest, most modern prisons. He has also been in multiple non-U.S. jails in Asia. He is familiar with the standards for humanitarian care. There is little if any regard for humanitarian treatment at Palmasola. The noted violations are just a few of dozens of blatant breaches of international standards of detention witnessed by this investigator.
MOTIVE FOR OSTREICHER'S DETENTION
Jacob’s demise began when he made an innocent mistake. Once he was able to reestablish control over the company Rodriguez had nearly decimated, he turned the venture into a very successful business. So successful that he was noticed by Morales. When Ostreicher ordered bags for the next year’s crop of rice it sent shock waves through the agricultural community. The amount of the anticipated crop; 50,000,000 pounds, was very nearly as much as the rest of the country’s production combined. The shock wave was soon felt by Evo Morales. The simultaneous difficulty involving the land of a fugitive drug dealer provided an opportunity for Morales. Within mere weeks, Jacob was thrown in what can only be described as a Bolivian “gulag,” his rice had been stolen by the government, his equipment seized and sold, and his land converted to other uses. For what other uses might be, one has only to remember that Evo Morales is a proud coca grower.
No trace now remains of COLIAGRO’s rice venture. Jacob has now languished in a squalid Bolivian prison for over a year, and charges have yet to be filed, a trial has yet to be scheduled, and all indications are that none will ever be.
Evo Morales lives and dies by the socialist agenda. Every day, in every way possible, he tries to shows the “superiority” of socialism over capitalism--even when the evidence supports the opposite conclusion. His long-term plan, he had said, was to make Bolivia self-sufficient in rice production over a course of many years. For a capitalist venture to accomplish that in just three years would be a humiliation. Jacob was arrested for a crime known as “Illicit Enrichment,” which is a catch-all charge used mainly on political opponents. For a charge of illicit enrichment, no crime need be proven; which is immensely convenient. It is simply an allegation that you have more money than the government thinks you should have.
Jacob has languished in prison for a year without being given the opportunity to officially fight the charge. In the meantime, he has obtained affidavits from banks in Bolivia, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom which prove the origin and destination of every cent spent or made in the rice venture.
Morales’ decimation of a rice company which could benefit his people was accomplished simply because it wouldn’t benefit him. And it’s not the first time that this has happened. This modus operandi has become all-too familiar. A similar case to Jacob’s was the sad deconstruction of an otherwise profitable non-government-owned airline, Aerosur, long the flag-carrier of Bolivia. After coming to power, Morales decried a “private” airline operating out of his country and created a Bolivian government airline, BoA. The problem was that there was not enough passenger traffic for two airlines, and Aerosur was very adequately servicing the market along with several smaller feeder airlines.
Aerosur began to endure extremely rigorous government scrutiny on its operations; planes, maintenance and facilities—scrutiny that appeared absent with BoA. At times the government refused to sell fuel to Aerosur, or sold it at inflated prices, all the while selling BoA seats for unrealistically low prices. When this did not drive Aerosur out of business, the Morales government charged Aerosur with tax evasion and seized “100%” of Aerosur’s ticket revenue. In essence, they “legally” seized all of Aerosur’s operating capital. When Aerosur subsequently began to fail, they charged its president, Humberto Roca with “Illegal Enrichment.”
Since Ostreicher’s arrest, all of COLIAGRO’s approximately 40,000,000 pounds of rice have disappeared. The holders of the rice have repeatedly stated that it was taken by the Bolivian Justice Ministry group responsible for seized assets; DIRCABI. DIRCABI denies that they stole the rice, and alleges that the rice was stolen by people posing as DIRCABI agents. However, the holders of the seized assets also say that the persons who took the rice (and all of the farm equipment) were the same individuals from DIRCABI who initially seized the rice, an act that DIRCABI endorses as their own.
In an allegedly unrelated development, Evo Morales announced within the last two months that Bolivia, for the first time since Morales came to power, now has a rice surplus and is able to export that commodity. He did not elaborate on how this massive increase in production occurred.
This investigation was conducted by Stephen Moore on a pro-bono basis. This investigator is not being paid by Mr. Ostreicher or any other person to investigate this matter.
All evidence; anecdotal, testimonial and empirical, point to one conclusion and one conclusion only: Jacob Ostreicher was arrested without any evidence of a crime being committed, and therefore without any evidence that he had committed any crime. In an entire year, the Bolivian government has held one hearing and cancelled or postponed 21 hearings which were for the purpose of providing bail for Mr. Ostreicher.
The Bolivian government has had an entire year to prove that a crime had been committed, or even to provide enough evidence to cause a reasonable person to believe that a crime might have been committed. If they have even attempted to do so, they have failed.
Every substantive statement made to any court in this case by prosecutors is demonstrably false, and was known to be so at the time by the prosecutor who made the statements. All courtroom statements by which Mr. Ostreicher is now detained, are, and were known to be, perjury at the time they were made. Jacob Ostreicher’s arrest and imprisonment is predicated on lies, perjury and political threats.
His detention is illegal by both Bolivian and international law. His detention continues for unknown reasons, though all anecdotal information obtained by this investigator indicates that Ostreicher poses a potential political embarrassment to Bolivian President Evo Morales. The posture of the Bolivian government in this matter is and has been, to avoid (and to obstruct) any legally-required proceeding in which the government would have to justify Mr. Ostreicher’s arrest and/or detention.
The prison in which Mr. Ostreicher is being illegally held is in itself illegal by any international standard of human rights. Mr. Ostreicher is in constant danger of death by illness, violence or simple political caprice.
According to the United States Department of State 2011 State “Country Report on Human Rights Practices,” Bolivia’s “justice” system engages in “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life” (murder),“arbitrary arrest or detention,” and “denial of a fair and public trial.” While investigating the matter of Jacob Ostreicher, this investigator found ample reason to support this assertion by the State Department.
At one point, this investigator interviewed a Bolivian defense attorney who was in Palmasola to speak to a client of his. I was advised by prisoners that this attorney was one of the more prominent criminal defense attorneys in Bolivia. When asked about the Ostreicher case, he laughed and explained; “There are four reasons [Jacob] is still in prison. One; he is an American. Two; he is white. Three; he is a Jew. And four; he has money.” He offered advice to be given to Jacob; “Give [the prosecutors] what they want.”
It is the conclusion of this investigator that Mr. Jacob Ostreicher has never committed a crime in Bolivia and is for all intents and purposes, a prisoner of the Bolivian regime of Evo Morales because he poses a potential embarrassment and/or threat to his political control of the country.
This is one of several disciplinary cells this investigator personally examined at Palmasola Prison. In this cell (adjacent to the children’s play area), approximately 12 prisoners were locked into an approximate 10 ft. x 10 ft. unlit cell without sanitary facilities or bedding. The floor was concrete and prisoners in disciplinary cells are not fed. They depend on visitors and the kindness of other prisoners for food during their stays in the disciplinary cells.
Children in Palmasola. Children such as these were everywhere in Palmasola Prison. The main children’s play area is adjacent to one of several disciplinary cells in the prison (see below).
This is the area within Palmasola Prison set aside for the use of cocaine by prisoners. Cocaine which is openly sold inside the prison. The prisoners in the background of the photo were under varying levels of cocaine influence. Most are homeless and sleep in this immediate area on the ground.
Cattle are employed in the prison as garbage disposal units.
(Right) This is the open garbage dump where Jacob Ostreicher laid for five days after his initial incarceration at Palmasola prison.
While in Palmasola Prison, this investigator met with many individuals who were in Palmasola without charges and without trial. During this time, I was followed at all times by members of the “Disciplina Interna” to identify the individuals with whom I spoke, to try to ascertain the topics of our discussions, and other reasons upon which we can only speculate.
In the photo below, every single individual wearing a white baseball cap, all of which were imprinted with the group logo “G-5” are members of the ‘Disciplina.' This investigator was speaking to an individual who was in the prison without charges, and in the background no less than seven (7) ‘Disciplina’ operatives can be counted. Prisoners and visitors alike are under constant surveillance. It was a member of the ‘Disciplina’ who two days later made a demand for money from this investigator.
Advertisement placed in El Deber Newspaper by Jacob Ostreicher regarding Liliana Rodriguez.
Swiss report to Bolivian authorities indicating Mr. Zolty was neither wanted or under investigation.
"State Sponsored Kidnapping"
The Illegal Captivity of Jacob Ostreicher
Last week, I was called to testify before the congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee, Human Rights Subcommittee. My appearance was at the request of the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey. The hearing was called to investigate the illegal arrest and imprisonment of American Jacob Ostreicher, and the inaction of the United States government--read “State Department”--on the case.
In my testimony on Wednesday, June 6, (clips of which appear on my Media page), I noted that Jacob is essentially a political prisoner accused of a crime which never happened. Not only can the government of Bolivia not provide a single iota of proof that Jacob Ostreicher committed a crime, they cannot provide a single iota of proof that a crime was even committed. Yet Jacob remains in a squalid, dangerous prison; one run by the inmates themselves. (See my blog, “Three Days in Hell,” 4/17/2012). He must pay to have a cell, he must pay to eat, and he must pay protection money to stay alive.
The judges and prosecutors in the country are puppets of Evo Morales and must toe the line or risk prison themselves. The defense lawyers, in turn, are many times puppets of the prosecutors. In fact, in the very prison in which Jacob is being held hostage, there is a special wing just for prosecutors, lawyers and judges. The inference is inescapable: “Play ball” or join the person whose innocence you are championing. Either way, the innocent arrestee has no chance of release.
During the Foreign Affairs hearing on the 6th, Congressman Smith voiced his interest in attending a scheduled legal hearing for Jacob in Bolivia, yesterday, June 11, 2012. I cautioned him, though, that I felt that there was exactly “zero” chance of the hearing taking place. Only once has a hearing for Jacob gone forward, and in that hearing months ago, Jacob was ordered released on bail. Before he could even muster out of the prison, the judge reversed himself sheepishly, in wording that sounded oddly like a person speaking with a gun to their head. In fact, the judge criticized himself for putting “..too much emphasis on evidence presented to him.” That’s a nearly verbatim translation. Since that date, no hearing has taken place, though many have been scheduled. Yet Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey was on a plane in less than 48 hours. It was an act that provided the only ray of hope in a dark tragedy.
The reason no hearings will ever take place is that there is no evidence to support the charges against Jacob, and like a student who has no homework to turn in, the Bolivians are doing whatever they can to avoid the inevitable moment of truth. Yesterday, with Congressman Smith in attendance, the hearing began this morning in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Almost immediately, the judge ordered the hearing postponed. No surprise. But what happened next would have put tears of pride in the eyes of Joseph Stalin. (And trust me, Evo won’t take that as a criticism.)
Jacob’s defense attorneys strenuously objected to the postponement, and the judge, between a rock and a hard place, finally agreed to hold the hearing at 3:30 pm, which incensed the prosecutor. At 3:30, when the hearing reconvened, the Minister of Government, (MOG) (not the Minister of Justice), ordered the judge to recuse himself from the case, apparently because his ruling that the hearing should take place showed favoritism to Jacob. The judge refused. The MOG then threatened the judge with prosecution if he did not recuse himself from the case. Even in a judicial world with little pretense of propriety, this threat was blatant. The judge, instead of recusing himself, sent the matter up to the Supreme Court to decide—in effect cancelling the hearing. This appeal will result in yet another delay of months before the next hearing. If this judge recuses himself or is forced out, he will be at least the third judge removed from the case.
Tragically, this whole charade is simply a shell-game to keep Jacob in a prison they are betting he will not survive. One must seriously consider whether the aim of the Bolivian government is to ensure that there is no Jacob for whom a congressman would fight.
“STATE (DEPARTMENT) ‘ALLOWED’ KIDNAPPING”
I must preface this section of the article by saying that I believe that the State Department is one of the most essential organizations in the United States government, and it is staffed by and large, by honorable, brave and caring people. I hope that the situation with Jacob Ostreicher is an anomaly caused by nonsensical State Department policies, but I fear that it is much more than that.
By using the hearing sham, the Bolivians have checked the right boxes with a risk-averse U.S. State Department (see my testimony below), allowing them the cover of allowing the Bolivian “judicial process” to run its course. Amazingly, the State Department’s written evaluation of the Bolivian “justice” system is a scathing indictment of political retribution and corruption. Specifically, according to the 2011 State Department “Country Report on Human Rights Practices,” Bolivia’s “justice” system engages in “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life (murder),” “arbitrary arrest or detention,” and “denial of a fair and public trial.” These are not my words, these are the words of the U.S. State Department. But now that an American is being victimized by these exact human rights issues, the Bolivian judicial system is "legitimate." The two official positions cannot be reconciled and stand in sharp contrast.
Unfortunately, an innocent American in a foreign prison is an impediment to close relations with the host country, which is the State Department’s main goal. Jacob is a rock in the State Department’s shoe, and the life of one Jewish businessman is apparently is not worth the State Department’s best efforts. In support of that statement, I provide the following information which was entered into the congressional record on June 6, 2012 by Congressman Smith or testimony from the Ostreicher family:
Not once has the Charges d’Affaires John Creamer, chief U.S. diplomat in Bolivia, visited Jacob in prison. Not once. This is a strong message of ambivalence to the Bolivians.
Not once has a meeting with the Bolivian government been called to discuss the plight of Jacob. He has allegedly been mentioned, but only during meetings previously scheduled for other topics. Kind of a diplomatic, “Oh, by the way….” Again, a strong message, but the wrong one.
Not once has any staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia uttered the name Jacob Ostreicher in a public forum. In fact, if one had only the State Department to provide information on justice for Americans overseas, no one would ever have heard of Jacob Ostreicher.
Not once has the embassy contacted Jacob’s family unless they are replying to a call from the family or providing information promised during that call. Not once has the U.S. State Department unilaterally reached out to Jacob’s family. Not once.
Maybe they’re too busy.
On May 30, 2012, the House Foreign Affairs Committee posted notice of the hearing on Jacob Ostreicher’s case with the hearing’s subject and purpose listed as,
“The U.S. State Department’s Inadequate Response to Human Rights Concerns in Bolivia: The Case of American Jacob Ostreicher”
One would think that the State Department would consider Jacob’s plight a serious matter. If not Jacob’s plight, one would think that they would like to set the record straight and avoid criticism they might consider baseless. However, the State Department immediately declined to appear. Yet, four days later, and exactly four days before the hearing, Charges d’Affaires John Creamer made time to dance in Bolivian native costume in a Bolivian festival. El Deber, the main newspaper in Bolivia, explained that in order to learn the dance, Creamer had to take lessons four times each week for over a month. A total of 16 dance lessons before he donned the costume of the country illegally holding an American citizen fighting for his life in a squalid prison. A very busy man indeed.
All this while Jacob continued a hunger strike. As Jacob told me recently, the hunger strike is as much in protest of U.S. State Department indifference as it is of his illegal detention by the Bolivians.
The above photograph of Mr. Creamer and his lovely wife Liza dancing in Bolivian costume was proudly posted on the embassy website two days before the Foreign Affairs hearing which State refused to attend. The festival and diplomat performance occurred on the 47th day of Jacob's hunger strike in protest of State Department indifference to his plight.
This photo, along with another of Creamer delivering donated books to a Bolivian library were on the front page of the Embassy website, as were headlines emphasizing American friendship with Bolivia. These initiatives include a series of string concerts sponsored by the U.S., donations to hospital construction, and the embassy's participation in a Bolivian celebration of hip-hop music and "Graffiti as Culture." A thorough search of the U.S. Embassy Bolivia website revealed no mention of “Jacob Ostreicher.” A website search engine query answered “no results” for Jacob’s name. Embassy priorities are obvious. One might wonder if the Embassy is engaging in "Quiet Diplomacy." However, the embassy have expressed to the family no intent to engage in any initiative other than "bringing the issue up" during meetings.
The U.S. State Department is completely aware of the corruption and use of the “judicial” system in Bolivia for political purposes. (Yet, they apparently believe it is good enough for an accused American.) The State Department knows for many reasons, not the least of which are the events of May 30, 2012, just eight days prior to the hearing. On that day, Roger Pinto Molina, a prominent Bolivian Senator took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz, requesting political asylum and protection from Evo Morales and his government.
Molina has accused the Morales government of human rights abuses, drug trafficking, the incarceration of political prisoners and corruption. In response, the Morales “Justice” Ministry has charged Molina with a series of crimes, including political corruption. Molina told the Brazilian Embassy diplomats that he feared for his life.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia linera said on June 6, the day of the U.S. congressional hearing, that Molina was not being persecuted, and that there were no political prisoners in Bolivia.
The vice president also said, “If he believes that….he didn’t commit these crimes, well, he should be happy to defend himself” in court. Molina is apparently aware of an accused person’s prospects of a fair trial (or any trial) in Bolivia. Apparently Brazil, which shares a border with Bolivia agrees. Yesterday, June 11, the Brazilian government granted Senator Molina political asylum. The brave move by the Brazilians involving a neighboring country stands in stark contrast to U.S. timidity.
Senator Molina knew better than to stay in Bolivia, and it appears that he knew better than to seek sanctuary at the U.S. Embassy. Jacob, unfortunately did not have the same information Molina had. Jacob was too trusting. Of both the Bolivians and the Americans.