Jacob Ostreicher released from Bolivian prison

New York businessman Jacob Ostreicher, who has been jailed in Bolivia without charges for 18 months, was released on bail Dec. 18, according to U.S. lawmakers who led calls for his release.

“While a welcome step, granting Jacob bail is long overdue,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who recently joined Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) in traveling to Bolivia to make Ostreicher’s case.

A Bolivian court ordered Ostreicher to post bail of more than $14,000 and remain under house arrest.

Smith praised Bolivian authorities for the move, as well as for arresting a number of people who allegedly kept Ostreicher imprisoned in order to extract bribes from him.

“His life remains at risk every day that he remains in Bolivia, due to credible death threats against him,” said Smith, co-chairman of a congressional subcommittee that oversees international human rights.

Ostreicher, a haredi Orthodox father of five and grandfather of 11 from Brooklyn, was arrested in June 2011 by Bolivian police after it was alleged that he did business with “people wanted in their countries because of links with drug trafficking and money laundering.” He has never been charged.

Ostreicher belonged to a group of investors who sunk $25 million into growing rice in eastern Bolivia. He has said that his arrest stems from a conspiracy by Bolivian officials to rob him and his businesses.

Last month, authorities arrested seven people, including top government officials, for attempted extortion of Ostreicher. — jta