Authorities in Guatemala have arrested a former vice-minister of the interior and police director on corruption charges, demonstrating how officials systematically used government contracts to rob the state during the tenure of former Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla.
Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office announced on January 30 via Twitter the arrests of former Interior Vice Minister Manfredo Vinicio Pacheco Consuegra and the former head of the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC), Walter René Vásquez Ceron.
The two are accused of having illegally awarded five government contracts for the rental of 47 bulletproof vehicles during 2014 and 2015. The former director of the penitentiary system, Anthony Giovanni Pivaral de León, is also implicated in the scheme, reported Prensa Libre.
The government contracts, worth a total of 32 million quetzals (roughly $4.3 million), were awarded without a bidding process. This was allegedly done by invoking an exemption that is allowed for certain cases under Guatemalan law. But these “extraordinary cases” are only allowed for contracts up to 90,000 quetzals (approximately $12,000), according to Prensa Libre.
The Attorney General’s Office also said via Twitter that former Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla illegally approved the terms of the deal “via ministerial resolution.” Prosecutors will request a preliminary hearing for López Bonilla, who is currently detained on several corruption charges related to a separate case.
Under López Bonilla, at least seven Interior ministry contracts were awarded by invoking the “extraordinary cases” exemption, according to Prensa Libre.
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The arrest of the two former officials is emblematic of the methodical corruption that took place within Guatemala’s Interior ministry while López Bonilla was at the helm. The over-inflation of government contracts was so widespread that the Interior ministry nearly went bankrupt, an official speaking on condition of anonymity told InSight Crime as part of a recent investigation into López Bonilla.
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Armored vehicles in particular have been involved in several instances of alleged corruption concerning the Interior ministry. The infamous and powerful prisoner Byron Lima — who was killed during a prison riot last July — would reportedly travel in a convoy of bulletproof vehicles owned by the Interior ministry during his regular trips to visit his family and friends outside the prison.
InSight Crime’s investigation also found that López Bonilla himself approved the allocation of resources, including an armored vehicle, for the protection of Marllory Chacón Rossell, who in 2012 the US government had identified as Guatemala’s “most active money launderer.”
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