Guatemala former VP detained in military barracks on corruption charges | News | DW | 22.08.2015
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Guatemala former VP detained in military barracks on corruption charges

The former vice president of Guatemala has been detained at the Matamoros military barracks in connection with a customs corruption scandal. Prosecutors also want to investigate President Otto Perez.

Former Guatemalan vice president Roxana Baldetti was in the hospital on Friday when a judge arrived to inform her of the charges against her. She was then transferred to the Matamoros military barracks in Guatemala City.

Prosecutors claim to have enough evidence to presume that Baldetti, who is suspected of illicit association, fraud and graft, took part in a scheme that is believed to have defrauded the government of millions of dollars. Her arrest came a day after her house was searched. Her bank accounts have already been frozen and there are injunctions on eleven properties belonging to Baldetti and her husband.

Baldetti stepped down as vice president in May after the corruption scandal broke. She resigned after one of her top aides, Juan Carlos Monzon, was accused of running the bribery scheme. Monzon is still at large.

Prosecutors and members of the UN commission investigation the fraud later announced they had also found that President Perez Molina was directly involved in a scheme to reduce importers' customs duties in exchange for bribes. Perez was accused of being one of the ringleaders of the bribery scandal.

The arrest and accusation come just two weeks ahead of the September 6 general elections. Perez's term ends in January and he can not run again as Guatemalan presidents are limited to a single four-year term.

Ivan Velasquez of the UN Commission said on the investigation had uncovered evidence of Baldetti and Perez's "very regrettable participation (in the corruption scheme) at every level of the organization."

Line scheme

The UN panel started its investigation in May last year and through 86,000 wire-tapped phone calls uncovered a scheme called "La Linea" (the line), named for the hotline used by businesses to contact the corrupt network of customs officers.

Velasquez said the calls included references to "Number One" and "Number Two," which investigators decided were Perez and Baldetti. He added: "We have evidence that goes beyond the phone calls."

Investigators suspect that in just one week, bribes could have totaled at least $262,000 (230,000 euros).

Both Baldetti and Perez deny the charges.

Perez faces an increasingly vocal protest movement calling for him to resign.

Other corruption investigations have targeted the head of the tax administration, the head of the central bank and the president of the social security administration.

jm/bw (EFE, AFP, AP)

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