Yesterday, the saga for alleged improper acts by government officials generated the intervention of the Department of Justice, which seeks to force an interrogation of former Revitalization Coordinator Noel Zamot, who denounced irregularities during a speech with investors.
Specifically, Zamot described anomalies in government contracting processes, such as the distribution of the "cake" before developing a project, and publicly suggested an alleged leakage of proposals for economic development projects to close associates of government officials.
Since El Nuevo Día revealed Zamot's allegations, government officials, including Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, have criticized Zamot and urged him to report any matter to the authorities.
On Monday, Justice moved the government's legal structure in an attempt to force the Oversight Board to provide information to help them locate Zamot. The fiscal entity provided the information "voluntarily", after stressing that multiple executives of the Rosselló Nevares administration have all the necessary information to contact Zamot.
“What I can say is that, at least, the Department of Justice did not have the information,” said Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez said, when she was asked about this.
The Board stressed that the delivery of information was voluntary because it questions the ability of the government to obtain a subpoena that forces the fiscal entity to take any particular action. This is due to provisions in PROMESA that created the Board.
On the other hand, Vázquez understands that these immunities are limited, since if the Puerto Rican government is investigating a possible crime committed in the local jurisdiction, the Department of Justice has the legal authority to compel any appearance or request specific information.
“Although the Department of Justice does not have the authority to issue a subpoena against the Oversight Board, the Oversight Board decided to voluntarily provide the requested information on a confidential basis subject to a full reservation of the Oversight Board’s rights, including the right to challenge any subpoena,” the department said in a statement.
Yesterday, Vázquez showed restraint in her answers about the investigation she commissioned after the allegations made by Zamot. Contrary to other occasions in which Justice expects for some kind of complaint to start an investigation, in this case it was their own motivation, without official plaintiff.
Vázquez merely pointed out that they expect to contact and interrogate Zamot to determine a specific course of action for the investigation. She said that the public allegations made by the former official are serious and denote behaviors that described as "improper". She did not anticipate what crimes, if any, might have been committed.
She said that “a legal analysis is premature. Itis necessary to analyze what he says, because the implications he made on public officials are very strong.”
Recently, the Board´s Executive Director Natalie Jaresko said that Zamot made the allegations in a moment of frustration due to the slowness of the works related the critical projects he was in charge of.
She indicated that, in conversations with Zamot, he also informed her that he does not know about specific criminal acts by public officials of the current administration.
Currently, Jaresko holds the role of acting Revitalization Coordinator. According to PROMESA, the Revitalization Coordinator is responsible for providing an expedited permit process for those works deemed critical or urgent for public services and the development of the local economy.