Ex-Guatemalan president to stand trial for corruption

0
31
Former Guatemalan
AFP / Johan ORDONEZ Former Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina (2012-2015) listens during a court hearing in Guatemala City on October 27, 2017

Former Guatemalan president Otto Perez was ordered Friday to stand trial on corruption charges.

Perez is charged with racketeering, illicit enrichment and fraud as leader of a multimillion dollar scheme involving the Central American country’s customs duty system, said Judge Miguel Angel Galvez.

The former president served from 2012 until he was forced to resign amid grassroots outrage in 2015.

Perez listened calmly as the judge read out his decision after a marathon three-day hearing.

No date for the start of the trial was announced, as other procedural hearings await and Perez and his co-defendants can still appeal against the judge’s decision.

The co-defendants are a former vice president, several former ministers, business leaders and private citizens.

Prosecutors and investigators from a UN commission tasked with fighting high-level graft in Guatemala accused Perez of orchestrating a scheme in which businesses bribed corrupt officials to clear their imports through customs at a fraction of the actual tax rate.

They say the accusations are based on some 89,000 wire-tapped phone calls.

The scheme — dubbed “La Linea” (the line), for a hotline that businesses allegedly called to access a network of corrupt officials — collected $3.8 million in bribes between May 2014 and April 2015, including $800,000 each to Perez and ex-vice president Roxana Baldetti, prosecutors have alleged.

Perez denies the charges.

The conservative leader defied months of mass protests calling on him to quit, but was left with little choice after Congress stripped him of his immunity in late 2015.

He has been in custody ever since.