A New York businessman detained in Bolivia on suspicion of money laundering arrived in the United States on Monday, the latest twist in a more than two-year saga that has unearthed high-level Bolivian government corruption, the State Department said.
A State Department official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name, confirmed that Jacob Ostreicher had left Bolivia but gave no details on his departure or travel.
Bolivian government officials said Monday that they didn't know anything about him possibly leaving their country.
In an email circulated to friends and supporters, his nephew Moshe confirmed the news as well, The Algemeiner reported.
“With happiness, we are informing the community of Israel that our dear uncle… has already left the iron curtain in Bolivia, and is now, with G-d’s great mercy, here in America,” Moshe wrote.
Ostreicher spent 18 months in a Bolivian jail without charges on suspicion of money laundering while trying to salvage a rice-growing venture. He was released a year ago and put under house arrest in the city of Santa Cruz after actor Sean Penn and several U.S. lawmakers directly appealed to President Evo Morales to free him.
Ostreicher, an Orthodox Jew who has a flooring business in Brooklyn, complained from the time his was jailed in June 2011 that he was being fleeced by corrupt officials.
His case came to notice when he accused the struggling rice venture's original manager, a Colombian woman who also was jailed, of defrauding investors and falling in with a Brazilian drug trafficker.
Ostreicher charged later that prosecutors and other government employees had illegally sold 18,000 metric tons of the venture's rice and stole equipment as well as demanded a $50,000 payoff to get him out of jail.
"They robbed me of close to $50 million worth of assets," Ostreicher told the AP in an interview a year ago. He said that in addition to the rice, about 900 cattle disappeared along with 37 tractors and harvesting equipment.
Bolivian authorities have said since that 15 people had been arrested in the alleged extortion ring, including an assistant to the judicial director of the Interior Ministry.
Last June, prosecutors said two low-ranking officials among those arrested had pleaded guilty and were cooperating in hopes of serving less jail time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.