THE BERGDAHL TRADE
Before I go into detail on my observations on the Bowe Bergdahl hostage situation, I think it prudent to first discuss in the abstract the concept in play, in order that emotion not cloud the ramifications of negotiating with hostage takers. "So how did that work out for you?"
There is a very simple, true, universal and essential principle of civilized society: When people give in to extortion, extortion increases. When people do not give in to extortion, the extortion stops. Few people would dispute this reality. There may be deep and painful costs to standing up against extortion, but ultimately, in the long run the extortion stops, or at least dwindles to near nothing. Enduring the momentary (albeit deep) pain ultimately saves lives. Failing to endure results in long-term calamity. This is a tenet of civilized society which is ingrained in our psyche.
When you give in to terrorists, you don’t just tolerate terrorism, you encourage it. Trading anything to a terrorist in return for a hostage is like fanning a fire. Trading five dangerous terrorists for a single hostage is like pouring gasoline on the fire.
There is a word for this type of negotiation and deal: “Appeasement.” Appeasement will forever be linked with one man, Neville Chamberlain, who went to Germany to try to pacify a dictator named Adolf Hitler. Hitler had engaged in saber-rattling and was threatening war if he was not given the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia. In essence, he was engaging in a diplomatic extortion.
British Prime Minister Chamberlain participated in a conference in Munich in which the European powers bravely ceded parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for his promise not to invade and cause a war. The Czechs were not invited to the conference, and to this day refer to it as “The Munich Betrayal.”
On September 30, 1938, Chamberlain returned to England, waving a copy of the signed capitulation to the extortion and famously exclaimed, “I have returned from Germany with peace for our time.”
Within one year, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, and within the next six, over 60 million people—2.5% of the world’s population—had died as a result of that “peace.” Many believe that had the world stood up to Hitler at that point, WWII could have been averted.
At the time of Chamberlain’s return from Munich, future Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke presciently and eloquently in Parliament of Chamberlain's agreement:
“He was given the choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor and he will have war anyway.”
What the United States did last week was capitulate to a terrorist extortion. You can sugar-coat it with whatever words you like, but the truth remains the same. The Taliban will now be emboldened to take more hostages. And not just the Taliban. Every terrorist group in the world saw what happened. And every terrorist group now knows what they can get from this administration for a single American soldier, even of the lowest rank.
I do not say these things lightly. I have a dear cousin who has spent time in the Army in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I myself have spent much time in Pakistan and Indonesia investigating al Qaeda. I understand the ramifications of what I am advocating.
Who then, are the most outspoken critics of this action? The men and women of our armed forces, and they are angry because the administration traded for one of their own! Incongruous? Hardly. Every soldier knows (or at least was told) that America will not negotiate with terrorists and that their repatriation after capture was not guaranteed. But they also understood that this policy reduced the possibility of them being used as hostages. These soldiers know that the decision taken by President Obama has put every overseas American soldier at higher risk. And they resent the release of terrorists that soldiers risked their lives to capture.
Every single American overseas fighting terrorism, every State department employee, every low level clerk at an Embassy is now at a significantly greater risk. I spent years in the FBI traveling overseas investigating terrorism in Indonesia, Pakistan and other garden spots. We knew—because we were told bluntly—that if we were captured by terrorists, no deal would be made to free us. That was okay with us, because we knew the potential hostage takers knew that, too.
Now, Americans going overseas have to deal with the fact that the terrorists know that they can trade an American--any American--for something valuable. And there are still 149 of their friends in Guantanamo Bay. Under the Obama equation, that’s just under 30 Americans.
To be fair, the administration is calling this a POW swap, which at the end of a conflict is certainly appropriate and right. But this wasn’t a POW swap. The group that held Bergdahl is a terrorist group. The prisoners at Guantanamo were not members of any organized army representing any specific nation, and have never been accepted as such. And POW’s are not held at threat of death if demands aren’t met. The administration itself has explained that Bergdahl’s life was in immediate danger. That mitigates against him being POW.
The administration is careful to refer to Bergdahl as a ‘prisoner,’ not a ‘hostage,’ much like they referred to the attacks at Benghazi as ‘demonstrations,’ and not ‘terrorism.’ The problem now is not simply with the administration’s foreign policy decisions, it’s the fact that Americans are having increasing trouble believing what they say about the decisions.
Call it what you want, but if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck—it’s a duck.
Maybe the President was trying to fulfill a campaign promise and empty Gitmo. I get that. He was elected. He gets to do what he had promised to do. But please do it without it seeming like a prisoner swap. At least the terrorists you let back out won’t be as inclined to take hostages.
Most troubling to me, however, is the fact that the administration failed to comply with the law that requires the President to give congress 30 days advance notice before negotiating an exchange of Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
Not simply “within 30 days,” but specifically “30 days in advance.” I am deeply concerned because of the appearance that the administration might have intentionally ignored this law.
The administration says that they had to act quickly because Bergdahl's life was in danger. The point becomes then, how did you know his life was in danger unless you were already negotiating? That would indicate that they were negotiating prior to their reason for not notifying congress. If the peril to Bergdahl was found through other means, how was contact with the terrorists so immediately established?
Problematically, the administration can't get their story straight as to why they didn't advise congress as required by law. First, they said that they didn't have time because Bergdahl's life was in danger. Next, however, they claimed they just forgot.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told Senator Diane Feinstein that the failure to notify congress in advance “…was an oversight.” This, to say the least, stretches credibility. Even if it was true, it evinces a frightening level of incompetence and/or negligence. They forgot? It is difficult to believe that compliance with that particular law was “forgotten,” specifically because of the Obama administration's strong objection to the law when it was passed. At the time it was passed, they criticized the notification required by the law because, “It might tie the president’s hands in a prisoner exchange where time was of the essence.” Yes, it would. And that was the purpose of the law.
No administration can simply disregard laws they disagree with. Period.
THE HOSTAGE AND THE RANSOM
Many claim that Bergdahl is a deserter and some claim that he is a traitor. I do not have enough reliable information yet on which to base a decision. However, even with what has been reported, there is possible mitigation to his actions, even if he left the camp willingly.
Some people do not cope with battle well at all. Some collapse mentally. This is not unusual. It is possible that Bergdahl could not deal with war and his actions are a result of that. If that is true, then he is a casualty in a way. There is, however, not enough information available at this time to determine whether or not that is true.
It is also said that he is having trouble remembering English. I do not know if this is true, but if it is, I am puzzled. I know one American held in a foreign prison for four years, and while they occasionally forgot to speak English upon their release, their English had not degraded at all, though they were fluent in the language of their captor. Another person with whom I worked was an American imprisoned in Bolivia for two years. Not only was his English not impacted, he learned comparatively little Spanish. The fact that Bergdahl allegedly has forgotten English and speaks only Pashtu is troubling regardless of the reason.
According to USA Today, Bergdahl left a note behind when he left the camp saying that he wanted to “start over.” He left behind his rifle and body armor, but took a compass, knife, water, camera and a diary. He wasn’t going out looking for women or booze.
Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow, search team leader the night of Bergdahl’s disappearance, told USA Today that the team intercepted radio and cellphone communications from a nearby village which described an American soldier who wanted to talk to the Taliban. Again, this will have to be investigated. Nothing is certain.
Significantly, soldiers from Bergdahl’s camp believed he was giving the Taliban information on military routes and times, because bombings and attacks on troops became more frequent and more accurate after his disappearance.
The Washington Post identified the terrorists released from Guantanamo Bay as:
“Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, 47. Once, the Taliban’s Interior minister, hard liner. Close ties to Osama bin Laden”
“Mullah Mohammad Fazl, 47. Senior commander Taliban Army, later Chief of Staff. Personally supervised the killing of thousands of Shiite Muslims near Kabul 1998-2001. Present at a 2001 prison riot which killed CIA operative Johnny Spann. His military file states, ‘If released, would rejoin and participate in hostilities’”
“Mullah Norullah Noori, 47. Also present during Spann’s death. May have been involved in Shiite massacre. Military file: ‘Continues to be a significant figure encouraging acts of aggression.’”
“Abdul Haq Wasiq, 43. Deputy Chief of Intelligence for the Taliban. Used his office to support al Qaeda. Central to the Taliban’s effort to form alliances with other Islamic Fundamentalist groups.”
“Mohammad Nabi Omari, 46. Member of joint al Qaeda Taliban cell in eastern Khost province. ‘One of the most significant Taliban leaders detained at Gitmo’”
Back to Winston Churchill;
"An appeaser is one who feeds the alligator, hoping it will eat him last."
America has fed the alligator, and he is still hungry.
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.
Following my trip to Bolivia, I was interviewed by AMI Magazine; a weekly, worldwide magazine with its finger on the pulse of Jewish issues around the globe. Last week, their cover story was on Jacob Ostreicher, who I had the privilege of meeting at the smarmy slum that is Palmasola Prison. I believe their article expands on the entirety of Jacob's story, and with their permission, I reprint it here.