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'Dominican Presidential Candidate Took Bribes from Drug Lord'

Miguel Vargas Maldonado Miguel Vargas Maldonado

The former lover of Puerto Rican drug lord Jose David Figueroa Agosto has accused a presidential candidate in the Dominican Republic of taking $300,000 in bribes from the drug trafficker. 

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According to El Nuevo Herald, Figueroa's ex-girlfriend told law enforcement authorities in the Dominican Republic that 2008 presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado accepted three separate donations from Figueroa, each one worth $100,000. 

The ex-girlfriend, Sobeida Felix Morel, is currently serving a five-year sentence in the Dominican Republic on money laundering charges. She turned herself in after Figueroa was arrested in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in July 2010. She reportedly made the allegations against Vargas as part of her plea agreement with law enforcement authorities. 

According to Felix Morel, Vargas would receive the payments after attending private dinners with Figueroa and other guests in Santo Domingo's most upper-class neighborhood. Figueroa also donated an all-terrain vehicle to Vargas's campaign, according to the accusations. 

Vargas is currently the president of the center-left Dominican Revolutionary Party. He has denied Felix Morel's assertions, stating, "I never had dealings or links with Mr. Figueroa Agosto."

Ms Felix Morel also said that Figueroa Acosto would give payments and expensive watches to members of the police and military. 

Figueroa Acosta is currently awaiting trial in the US. He once controlled one of the most powerful and lucrative drug trafficking networks in the Caribbean, until he was caught during a massive manhunt that involve Puerto Rican forces, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). 

InSight Crime Analysis

Vargas is a powerful businessman who became wealthy through the construction business. He has faced down previous accusations of corruption: as stated by a 2006 US State Department cable published by WikiLeaks, these include assertions that his wealth came through "shady dealings." The question is whether there is enough evidence to support Felix Morel's charges against Vargas, and actually lead to a formal investigation.

Other public figures in the Dominican Republic have been accused of links to the drug trade and to Figueroa. Last year the United States revoked the visas of three presidential advisers and the chief of border security due to alleged ties to drug traffickers. The security forces have also struggled with widespread corruption in connection to the drug business. 

 

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