Ortega’s Police Raid 39 Prisa Pawnshops without Explanation

Owner Mario Hurtado details: Losses amount to $4.6 million dollars, in addition to gold, silver, motorcycles, and computers pawned by customers 

By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – On Monday morning, August 15, Mario Hurtado, owner of Prisa pawnshop, received an urgent call from Óscar Duran, his general manager in Nicaragua, informing him that riot police had invaded the company’s central offices, located in Managua, as well as the 38 branches located throughout the country.

Prisa is a pawnshop business with a presence in all the departmental capitals of Nicaragua, and in several other municipalities, from where some 150 employees serve almost 22,000 clients (according to data provided by Hurtado and information available on its website). The company made headlines at the beginning of the week when photos of its branches invaded by police invaded social networks.

Hurtado told CONFIDENCIAL that the seizure of his properties represents a loss of 4.6 million dollars for him, so he is “looking to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to complain because there is a free trade agreement between the two countries, which protects the investments of Mexican citizens.” 

The businessman explained that although he was born in Nicaragua, he also has Mexican nationality because he is the son of a citizen of that country, where he has been living for two years after traveling there to receive treatment for a medical condition. 

In detailing the losses, he explained that the company is valued at three million dollars, (half of this amount is constituted by the objects left under pledge), to which he adds the value of his seized house in Ticuantepe, which is a total of 600 square meters with a swimming pool, tennis court, etc., which costs another 1.6 million dollars.

Hurtado and his 150 employees are not the only ones who lost. In the raid, the clients who had left their possessions as collateral for a loan were also affected, because “they took gold, silver, motorcycles, computers, pawned items, even cell phones belonging to the workers, the managers, and the lawyer. Legally, what they took is not mine, but my clients,” he said.

The businessman says that he does not understand the reasons for this attack, because, following the advice of his friends, he decided to retire from politics, stopped making comments on social networks, distanced himself from Diario La Prensa, and always strived to comply with any tax or administrative obligation that was in force. 

Riot Police raiding one of the Prisa stores.

“I am part of the [Financial Analysis Unit] UAF”, as an ‘Obligated Subject’, for which the company has a ‘compliance officer’. “My tax payments are up to date. I have no complaint, nor have I been informed that there is any investigation against me,” he asserted. 

He recalls: “friends used to tell me: ‘retire from politics; one day they will stop you in the street, and they will put a kilo of coke in your car’. Knowing what the Ortega government is capable of, I retired from politics, even from the weekly El Azote, which I collaborated with for twelve years. I signed as ‘Pocholo’. I also edited the Opinion section of La Prensa for a week, but I left all that behind,” he says. 

He says that he did not even participate in any group chat with opponents of Ortega; “I have never financed any political party, nor any opposition politician”, he adds, recalling that in 2014, he was imprisoned for two years “for an alleged usury trial”, a sentence of which he only served six months, when friends of his advocated before the upper echelons of the ruling party to obtain his early release.

Although he has continued to try to communicate with Oscar, his general manager, as well as the other branch managers, and the staff who guarded his house. However, their personal cell phones were also confiscated and he has not been able to reach them. For now, he only has a glimpse of what is going on, thanks to the social networks he had been staying away from, in the hope that what finally happened to him would not happen. 

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