Six Bolivian government officials, allegedly involved with a scheme to rob and extort Jacob Ostreicher, an American Jewish businessman, were arrested on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. Ostreicher has been in jail for the past 18 months on suspicion of money laundering.
Ostreicher and his supporters have argued since his arrest that he was the victim of corrupt Bolivian officials who have been keeping him in jail in order to sell off the 18,000 metric tons of rice they confiscated from him and extort him in exchange for promises to obtain his release.
With the arrest of the officials, including a top Interior Ministry official, Ostreicher’s case might be near a resolution. According to the Bolivian newspaper, Los Tiempos, Bolivia’s interior minister, Carlos Romero, said that Ostreicher’s lawyer should submit an appeal to the local criminal court in Santa Cruz, where he has been imprisoned.
Romero, quoted in the AP, said those arrested were involved in “a network of corruption and extortion that has involved government officials, private individuals and possibly had connections with the judiciary.”
The actor, Sean Penn, recently brought attention to Ostreicher’s case when he visited him at the end of October. Ostreicher has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by a government doctor.
Gal Beckerman was a staff writer and then the Forward’s opinion editor until 2014. He was previously an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review where he wrote essays and media criticism. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review and Bookforum. His first book, “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award and the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, as well as being named a best book of the year by The New Yorker and The Washington Post. Follow Gal on Twitter at @galbeckerman