Rally to support Orthodox man jailed in Bolivia

The plight of an Orthodox Jewish businessman incarcerated in a Bolivian jail without charge is to be highlighted with a rally in New York later today.

Jacob Ostreicher was sent to Palmasola Prison in Bolivia nearly a year ago, but is no closer to making his case in court. The 52-year-old grandfather has been accused by the authorities over the fact that his rice farming business was allegedly used as a front for money laundering for the drugs trade.

Mr Ostreicher, who has described his situation as "the scam of the century", was one of several investors to put money in the farming project in the South American country four years ago.

The venture was brought to the investors by a Colombian woman, Claudia Liliana Rodriguez. It later emerged that some of the land Ms Rodriguez had arranged for them to use was owned by the brother of a convicted drug trafficker, Maximiliano Dorado, with whom some have claimed she was also romantically linked.

On discovering this, Mr Ostreicher was asked to investigate the possibility of fraud, and both Ms Rodriguez and Mr Dorado were arrested.

But the rice company's connections to Dorado led the Bolivian authorities to Mr Ostreicher. He was jailed last June on the basis that he too had used "capital of dubious origin" and that the investors were the subject of an investigation in Switzerland.

The case has barely progressed since. A judge who ordered him to be released in September changed his mind and was later replaced, while demands for his rights by the US government have achieved little.

His assets have been frozen and nearly $4 million worth of rice has been confiscated. The case has so far cost his family more than $500,000.

His wife, Miriam Ungar, said: "There is no reason for this. He is an innocent man."

    Last updated: 12:51pm, May 3 2012