HomeNewsAnalysisExtradition of ‘Ghost’ to US Could Haunt Guatemala Elites
ANALYSIS

Extradition of 'Ghost' to US Could Haunt Guatemala Elites

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 NOV 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Guatemala has extradited to the United States an alleged drug trafficker suspected of being at the center of several developing scandals linked to the administration of President Jimmy Morales and that of his disgraced predecessor, Otto Pérez Molina. 

Authorities in Guatemala handed over Marlon Francesco Monroy Meoño, alias "El Fantasma" (The Ghost), and his wife Cynthia Janeth Cardona Sandoval to US officials on November 2, reported Reuters

Monroy Meoño was captured on April 30 on orders from a US federal court in the Southern District of Florida, where he is wanted for conspiring to traffic over 500 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, according to elPeriódico.

Guatemala's Interior Ministry alleges that Monroy Meoño served as a middleman for Colombian cocaine trafficking groups and Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. A former army official, Monroy Meoño reportedly used his contacts in the military to receive drug shipments passing through the ports of Iztapa and Monterrico on Guatemala's Pacific coast, which were then moved north to Mexico and later the United States. According to elPeriódico, he began to control these drug transit areas following the arrest of his rival, Jairo Orellana, in May 2014

Also on November 2, the Guatemalan Attorney General's Office raided the Presidential House and the headquarters of the Presidential Guard as part of a money laundering investigation. Financial and administrative documents were seized from the Presidential Guard's office, but a spokesperson said no documents related to the case were found at the Presidential House.  

InSight Crime Analysis

Monroy Meoño's interest to the US government likely goes far beyond his involvement in drug trafficking. "The Ghost," as he is known, is believed to be at the nexus of multiple high-level schemes that involve political elites and the organized crime networks embedded in the fabric of Guatemala's power structures. 

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime 

To begin with, Guatemala's Interior Ministry says Monroy Meoño was recruited to kill Attorney General Thelma Aldana, who has led a vigorous campaign to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials. As InSight Crime has previously pointed out, the group who reached out to Monroy Meoño may have consisted of the same officials who suddenly found themselves under investigation or behind bars. And the liaison between Monroy Meoño and the shadowy group was reportedly none other than the former military officer Byron Lima, who was convicted in 2001 for the high-profile murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi.

Known as the "king" of Guatemala's prisons for the control he wielded over the facilities, Lima has been tied to several covert military networks, including one that was once run by former President Otto Pérez Molina. Pérez Molina is now in jail on charges that he oversaw a massive fraud ring within the country's customs office, among other allegations of corruption. Lima, meanwhile, died in a surprise attack this past July, which led to a multitude of conspiracy theories as to who may have killed him, and why. 

For his part, Monroy Meoño has denied his alleged connection to the assassination plot against Aldana. He has reportedly admitted, however, to his central role in yet another alleged scheme, which has direct links to the administration of current President Jimmy Morales.

According to the Guatemalan news outlet Contrapoder, Monroy Meoño told US drug officials that he gave the son of Vice President Jafeth Cabrera $500,000 in campaign donations in exchange for the right to name the military officials who would fill four government posts. The posts were never filled by Monroy Meoño's hand-picked officers, however, and he was later arrested. Aldana said that the Attorney General's Office is analyzing the case, but there has been no confirmation that an official investigation has been opened. 

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

As for the investigation into money laundering at the Presidential Guard, Aldana stated that it is unrelated to the case involving the vice president's son. But it could nonetheless be linked to people in Morales' inner circle.

The commander of the Presidential Guard, Erick Servando Cano Zamora, has both professional and personal ties to Morales. The sister of Cano Zamora's romantic partner reportedly had a child with the president out of wedlock. Cano Zamora was also the person who reportedly introduced Morales to Herbert Armando Melgar Padilla, a former military official and current congressman who served as the president's security chief during his campaign. 

It's unclear whether Monroy Meoño is connected to the investigation of the Presidential Guard. But it may not be long before more details emerge about that case, as well as the others he has been linked to. In conversations made known to elPeriódico in the months prior to his extradition, Monroy Meoño indicated that he would have a lot to discuss with US authorities. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EXTORTION / 4 MAR 2015

Over 400 people died in attacks against Guatemala's public transport sector last year, violence that is typically linked to extortion…

ELITES AND CRIME / 18 SEP 2019

A major US drug case against the brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has ensnared the president, who prosecutors…

CIACS / 13 MAY 2011

A Guatemalan court acquitted former President Alfonso Portillo of corruption charges, in a major blow to the credibility of the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.