Police in the Dominican Republic have detained 19 people in connection with a massive corruption investigation that charges three former officials and a well-known former presidential contender of embezzling close to $350 million and using unlawful campaign finance.
The arrests are the most recent in a series of inquiries that authorities have opened in the previous two years as part of a crackdown on the country’s widespread government corruption in the Caribbean.
Gonzalo Castillo, a former minister of public works who received 37% of the vote when he competed for president of the Dominican Liberation Party in the 2020 general elections won by the current president Luis Abinader, is one of those who were held on Saturday night.
Former treasury minister Donald Guerrero, former comptroller general Daniel Omar Caamao, and former presidential administrative minister José Ramón Peralta have all been detained.
According to prosecutors, after embezzling $347 million in government funds, they are accused of paying bribes, laundering assets, and unlawfully supporting the prior electoral campaign on a “unprecedented” scale.
Authorities conducted 40 raids on the suspects’ homes, shops, and other locations throughout the Santo Domingo capital before charging them.
Hundreds of Castillo supporters gathered outside the Justice Palace to protest his detention on Monday. They waved the party flag and attempted to do damage to the structure before police used tear gas to disperse them.
The Dominican Liberation Party officials, meanwhile, questioned the prosecutors’ objectivity and said that they were only looking into and prosecuting former government officials while ignoring corruption claims against Abinader’s present administration.