Venezuela says near $1bn debt to Panama fraudulent

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Associated Press

Posted on March 9, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Updated Sunday, Mar 9 at 6:33 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's foreign minister says 90 percent of his government's $1 billion debt to Panama is fraudulent and criminal charges are likely to result.

Elias Jaua says the government paid businessmen dollars for the imports and the goods never arrived. So Panama isn't owed 90 percent of the debt.

Jaua's comments broadcast Sunday on the Televen television station on Sunday come after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro broke relations with Panama last week over its call for the Organization of American States to discuss a crackdown on protests in Venezuela. He also froze economic transactions.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has said he hopes Venezuela's break in relations would not affect payment of its debts to Panamanian businessmen.

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