San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Guatemala

Guatemala's Otto Pérez Molina dismisses 'spurious' corruption case

Read first: Guatemala’s Pérez Molina could face impeachment

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said Thursday the corruption investigation against him is unfounded, and he vowed to fight the possible lifting of his presidential immunity.

A congressional committee is currently probing how much Pérez Molina knew about fraud by senior officials in the customs and social security systems.

Pérez Molina condemned what he called a “purely political, or spurious, or illegitimate situation,” and questioned the opposition-dominated committee’s jurisdiction in the case.

The probe against the president was requested by opposition party Winaq after a U.N.-backed investigation aimed at cleaning up the Guatemalan judicial system reported in April that senior customs officials had taken bribes from businessmen seeking to avoid paying taxes.

The Supreme Court endorsed the request last week, asking Congress to set up an investigative committee and consider lifting Pérez Molina’s immunity.

The president was due to testify before the committee Thursday, but instead sent a written defense.

In it, he said the Supreme Court should have ruled on the substance of the case itself rather than passing it along to Congress.

“The Supreme Court is not a pre-trial processing system,” he wrote. “It must search for the facts.”

The head of the committee, opposition lawmaker Baudilio Hichos, meanwhile resigned after prosecutors and the U.N. anti-corruption commission accused him of involvement in social security fraud.

Guatemala has been in political upheaval since the U.N. commission began publishing its findings on the customs fraud scheme, leading to the resignation of Vice President Roxana Baldetti.

In a separate scandal, the president of the central bank and the director of the social security system — both of whom are close to Pérez Molina — were arrested in May on charges of cheating the social security system out of $15 million.

Read all our Guatemala coverage here

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Dan Gibson

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