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Nicaraguan Ex-President Is Charged

April 05, 2002|From Associated Press

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The Nicaraguan attorney general's office filed charges Thursday against former President Arnoldo Aleman and seven other officials for the alleged misuse of $1.3 million in state funds.

Special prosecutor Alberto Novoa said Aleman took part in a "plan to defraud the government of Nicaragua." The former president has denied wrongdoing, saying he gave key advisors total control over an ill-fated television deal.

The case centers around an allegedly irregular contract between Channel 6 and a Panamanian company, Servicios Integrales Casco, which was representing Mexico's TV Azteca.

The October 2001 contract was supposed to allow Channel 6 to broadcast Azteca programming in Nicaragua, but it was apparently signed without a bid process. Prosecutors allege that Nicaraguan officials made payments via hand-delivered checks for hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars made out to companies other than Casco.

As president of Nicaragua's National Assembly, Aleman has immunity and cannot be prosecuted. His party holds a majority in the assembly, and his supporters have said they will block attempts to strip the former leader of his immunity.

Aleman, who left the presidency earlier this year, has said he will not voluntarily give up his immunity.

If convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison.

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