Sep 09, 2015 Uncategorized Comments Off on Former Guatemalan president formally charged with corruption (dpa German Press Agency)
Guatemala City (dpa) – Guatemalan ex-president Otto Perez Molina was
formally charged Tuesday with criminal association, corruption and
fraud in connection with a customs fraud investigation.
Perez Molina, 64, a retired general who had been president since 2012
and resigned last week, was placed under arrest pending trial,
The trial is set to start on December 21, so he is expected to spend
more than three months imprisoned at the prison in the Matamoros
military barracks in Guatemala City.
Judge Miguel Angel Galvez said Perez Molina was being sent to prison
to prevent him from hindering the work of investigators.
The former president continued to deny the allegations and said he
was “frustrated” over his situation.
“In none of the three crimes I am being accused of is there anything
solid, just other people talking, references, but nothing solid. We
do not understand the judge’s decision,” Perez Molina told reporters
at the end of the hearing.
The court “believes there is sufficient reasonable evidence” to
suggest Perez Molina may have committed the crimes, though the judge
stressed that no wrongdoing has so far been proved.
Guatemalan prosecutors and a UN commission believe the former
president led the scheme known as La Linea, which allegedly helped
importers avoid millions of dollars in customs fees in exchange for
bribes. Prosecutors think the ring was active at least from May 2014
to April 2015.
The Guatemalan Congress accepted Perez Molina’s resignation Thursday
and appointed Vice President Alejandro Maldonado to fulfil his
presidential mandate ending in January.
In recorded conversations played in court, Perez Molina’s former vice
president, Roxana Baldetti, who was arrested last month, appeared to
refer to him as “chairman of the company,” “number 1” and “owner of
the estate.” A total of 39 people have already been arrested in
connection with this case.
High-level corruption is hardly new in Guatemala. Former president
Alfonso Portillo (2000-04) served several months in a US prison for
money laundering. He had accepted bribes from Taiwan in exchange for
Guatemala continuing to recognize the Asian state.
Guatemalans went to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, whose
term is to start in January. Comedian Jimmy Morales, an outsider, won
the first round of voting as people turned their backs on the Central
American country’s traditional elites.
The president is set to be decided in a run-off on October 25, but
Morales’s rival in the decisive vote remained unclear since second
place is still too close to call.