Wednesday 21 March 2018

Protesters back arrest of Guatemala ex-ministers in corruption probe

A demonstrator at a protest against corruption outside the National Palace in Guatemala City (AP)
A demonstrator at a protest against corruption outside the National Palace in Guatemala City (AP)

Three former Guatemalan cabinet ministers were arrested on corruption charges amid claims they used public money to buy houses, boats and a helicopter for a former president.

The authorities want to detain two more senior politicians as part of a crackdown that has already seen ex-president Otto Perez Molina jailed.

All of the former officials served under Perez Molina, who faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy. He denies wrongdoing.

Former defence ministers Ulises Anzuelo and Manuel Lopez Ambrosio were arrested, as was ex-interior minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla.

Chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana said they were part of a group that used about 4.3 million US dollars (£3 million) in state funds to buy gifts, including houses, boats and a helicopter, for Perez Molina.

They face charges of money laundering and conspiracy.

Perez Molina's former vice president Roxana Baldetti is also jailed on corruption charges, and also denies wrongdoing.

Ms Aldana said a group of officials organised a collection each year to buy gifts for the president on his birthday.

She said the money was handled by Juan Carlos Monzon, then secretary to Baldetti. Monzon has been collaborating with prosecutors investigating the case.

Interior minister Francisco Rivas said the authorities have also sought international arrest orders for former energy minister Erick Archila and ex-communications minister Alejandro Sinibaldi.

Lopez Ambrosio and Lopez Bonilla were arrested at their homes, while Anzueto turned himself in after learning he faced an arrest warrant.

Arriving at court offices, Lopez Bonilla said he did not know why he had been detained, but expressed confidence in the country's judicial system.

"I believe that at the end of the day, things will be cleared up. I can't say more than that I am proud of the work I did," he said.

About 2,000 people gathered for a demonstration in the centre of Guatemala City on Saturday to support the prosecutors and the crackdown on corruption.

Press Association

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