No immunity for corruption-plagued Guatemala president

July 1, 2015

GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s president lost a fight for immunity from prosecution Tuesday amid allegations of corruption.

The Constitutional Court rejected President Otto Pérez Molina’s appeal for presidential immunity that also sought to legally erase a pre-trial investigation of graft allegations, chief justice Gloria Porras told reporters.

The court, which outweighs the Supreme Court here, is Guatemala’s highest legal body.

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

The probe against Pérez Molina 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.

Guatemala has been in political upheaval since the U.N. commission started releasing 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.

Demonstrators have marched demanding the president step down several times in recent months.

 

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