Bolivian police arrested six employees of the Food Production Support Corporation (EMAPA) on corruption charges on October 20. EMAPA is a state-owned enterprise that distributes subsidies and other support to Bolivian farmers.
Almendras purchased the maize as a representative of a conglomerate of thirteen Bolivian farms. However, as the Department of Productive Development discovered, none of the farms represented actually purchased corn from EMAPA, and some did not even exist. Investigators have concluded that Almendras bought the corn at reduced government prices and profited by re-selling it at market value.
It is estimated that Almendras profited more than $20,000 from this fraud.
According to Minister of Productive Development Eugenio Rojas, this is not Almendras’ first time being accused of fraud.
The Department of Productive Development’s findings point to Renán Álvarez, Marco Pilco Peñaranda, Álvaro Méndez Romero, and Celia Espinoza as Almendras’ main accomplices, all of whom hold upper-level positions at EMAPA. Gabino Gutiérrez and Nelson Ramírez have also been named as affiliates and were detained by police.
The six employees face charges of misuse of influence, breach of duties, anti-economic behavior, ideological falsehood, use of forged instruments, and business operations in conflict with public functions. Three of the six have been sentenced to house arrest.
Some in Bolivia note that the present scandal highlights a major flaw in agricultural subsidy programs. Since the government purchases massive quantities of agricultural products from farmers and sells it at a reduced rate to meat and poultry producers, producers can re-purchase subsidized corn only to resell it at profit.
EMAPA denies any knowledge of corruption.