Nicaragua accuses prominent journalist of money laundering as crackdown deepens

FILE PHOTO: Journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, critic of the government of President Daniel Ortega, listens to question of a journalist during a news conference in Managua, Nicaragua December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas

(Reuters) - The Nicaraguan attorney general's office on Tuesday accused prominent journalist Carlos Chamorro, a fierce critic of the government of President Daniel Ortega, of money laundering.

Reuters was unable to immediately contact Chamorro. He fled to neighboring Costa Rica in June due to political persecution at home after his siblings, opposition leader and journalist Cristiana Chamorro and politician Pedro Joaquin Chamorro were detained by police.

Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla and erstwhile Cold War antagonist of the United States, faces an election due in November, when he will seek to secure a fourth consecutive term in power.

Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have drawn widespread criticism from foreign governments after the recent arrests of several opponents, including some presidential candidates.

Carlos Chamorro "was charged with the crimes of money, property and asset laundering, misappropriation and retention, and abusive management," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

New accusations of money laundering were also made against Cristiana Chamorro and seven workers of the defunct Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, which works on issues of access to public information and transparency. It also accused Pedro Joaquin Chamorro of abusive management, misappropriation and retention of funds.

Nicaraguan police arrested the general manager of newspaper La Prensa, Juan Holmann Chamorro, on Aug. 14 a day after raiding its offices and accusing the publication, which is a trenchant critic of Ortega, of customs fraud and money laundering.

La Prensa is controlled by the Chamorro family, four of whom are now in custody.

(Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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