LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — It is an unlikely tale: Orthodox Jew from New York City comes to Bolivia to rescue a rice-growing venture, gets thrown in jail on suspicion of money laundering and, aided by actor Sean Penn, winds up triggering perhaps the biggest scandal yet for the country’s president.
It all began 18 months ago when Jacob Ostreicher was arrested while trying to salvage a multimillion-dollar investment he was managing for Swiss partners. After Penn directly interceded on Ostreicher’s behalf, it could now be reaching its end.
The Oscar-winning actor, who has forged friendships with President Evo Morales and other leftist Latin American leaders, presented Morales on Oct. 30 with evidence indicating the American was unjustly jailed and being fleeced.
A high-powered corruption probe moved quickly, bringing eight arrests so far in what authorities described as a band of shakedown artists, extortionists and thieves led by the No. 1 legal adviser in the Interior Ministry and including two prosecutors.