UPDATE: Guatemala’s former Vice President Baldetti arrested in ongoing corruption probe; President also likely involved, investigators say
UPDATE: Friday, Aug. 21 12:30 p.m.
Guatemalan investigators said Friday morning that they’ve collected ample evidence linking former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, 53, to a massive fraud ring and that President Otto Pérez Molina was also likely involved.
At a news conference, Iván Velásquez, head of the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), detailed the structure of the crime ring, putting Pérez Molina at the head. CICIG and the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s Office are jointly investigating the case.
Chief Prosecutor Thelma Aldana said Pérez Molina’s presidential immunity should be revoked so that he can be fully investigated. Investigators said they found wiretaps, ledgers detailing profit-sharing from the crime ring and other documents implicating Baldetti in the scandal. Investigators also found checks made out to Baldetti in the office of Salvador González, one of the alleged leaders of the customs fraud ring and former president of Guatemalan daily Siglo21. They also found correspondence between González and President Pérez Molina.
Pérez Molina, whose term ends in January, cannot run in the September 6 elections.
GUATEMALA CITY – With just over two weeks to go to general elections, Guatemalan police on Friday arrested former Vice President Roxana Baldetti on corruption charges while she was checked into a local private hospital.
Baldetti had resigned as vice president in May following revelations of massive corruption and fraud in the country’s customs agency. The alleged ringleader of the fraud case was Baldetti’s private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzón, who is a fugitive from justice.
“The apprehension of the ex-vice president is confirmed,” Julia Barrera, spokeswoman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office, told reporters Friday morning.
The warrant for Baldetti’s arrest includes charges of illicit association, fraud and bribery.
The wide-ranging scandal has rocked Guatemala, with some calling for President Otto Pérez Molina to resign.
The president has said in the past he would not step down over the allegations against Baldetti, and that the investigation into the corruption scandal is supported by state prosecutors.
The investigation, led by a special U.N. commission to fight high-level graft, also netted the head of Guatemala‘s tax administration, his predecessor and several dozen other agency officials.
Protesters gathered outside the hospital where Baldetti was arrested to cheer the news, and passing drivers honked their horns in celebration.
Her arrest came one day after investigators searched her home for evidence in the multi-million-dollar fraud case. The judge in the case had already ordered her bank accounts frozen and slapped injunctions on 11 properties belonging to her and her husband.
The investigation, launched in May last year, was based on some 66,000 wire-tapped phone calls that uncovered a scheme dubbed “La Línea” (The Line), named for the hotline used by businesses to contact the corrupt network of customs officers.
This story is developing. Follow www.ticotimes.net for updates.
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