HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Authorities, CICIG Target Yet Another Former President
BRIEF

Guatemala Authorities, CICIG Target Yet Another Former President

ELITES AND CRIME / 13 FEB 2018 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

The arrest in Guatemala of former President Álvaro Colom adds to the list of former heads of state facing corruption allegations in the Central American nation, underscoring the judicial branch’s growing capacity to target some of the most powerful figures in the country.

On February 13, the Guatemalan Attorney General's Office announced the arrest of eleven former high-ranking officials on accusations of fraud and embezzlement.

Among those arrested was former President Álvaro Colom as well as a spate of former ministers who served under him, including former Interior Minister Salvador Gándara Gaitán and former Public Finance Minister Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, a spokesperson for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) confirmed.

The arrests of the former high-ranking officials are linked to a corruption investigation led jointly by the Attorney General’s Office and the CICIG dubbed “Transurbano,” after the name of Guatemala City’s public transportation system.

Opened in 2015, the probe delves into the spending of 270 million quetzals (around $35 million) of government funds funneled into a public-private partnership signed by the Colom administration in 2009 to develop the Transurbano transportation project.

The investigation showed that this state contract, won over by the private Association of Bus Companies (Asociación de Empresas de Autobuses - AEAU), was awarded without following the due process. Related public bids, such as the authorization to set up bus routes in Guatemala’s capital, presented similar irregularities, with the bid being fought over by four companies linked to the AEAU, and four fake entities.

According to CICIG Commissioner Iván Velázquez, Colom "intervened personally and institutionally to facilitate the fraudulent process of the creation of the partnership."

The partnership demanded that the private parties acquire some 3,150 buses from Brazil. However, only 455 vehicles were ever imported, according to República.

In addition, more than 100 million quetzals (around $14 million) were spent on buying transportation card validators in much greater quantities than the actual number of buses, according to Prensa Libre. These validators were found untouched in warehouses.

Authorities are also investigating the possible misspending of some 1.4 million quetzals (nearly $200,000) officially meant for the buses’ maintenance.

Three transfers of more than 50 million quetzals (around $6.8 million) of state funds were wired to the public-private partnership under the Colom administration, investigators said. A last payment was made during the administration of Colom's successor, Otto Pérez Molina, who has similarly been jailed on corruption charges. The transfers were reportedly authorized by former Communications Minister Alejandro Sinibaldi, who currently faces separate corruption allegations.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colom’s arrest adds to the list of Guatemalan presidents hit by corruption accusations, following the charges against Pérez Molina and the accusations levied against ex-President Álvaro Arzú. Authorities have also been looking into the possible illicit financing of current President Jimmy Morales’ electoral campaign.

This growing list of high-level accusations lends further credence to the notion that corruption in Guatemala is “a structural issue,” as CICIG Commissioner Iván Velázquez recently told InSight Crime during an interview.

SEE ALSO: Elites and Organized Crime

But the latest arrests are also illustrative of the Attorney General’s Office’s increasing ability to build viable corruption investigations to confront even some of the most powerful elites in the country. In a context of a strong backlash from Guatemalan elites that follows a regional pattern, this expanding capacity is indicative of judicial branch’s growing independence, helped along by support from CICIG and other international actors.

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

ARGENTINA / 28 APR 2021

Despite numerous investigations against him, an Argentine aviation tycoon was able to exploit aircraft registration loopholes in the United States…

ELITES AND CRIME / 21 MAY 2021

Guatemala seems to have brushed aside international pressure to crack down on entrenched government corruption, as authorities dropped charges against…

EL SALVADOR / 9 DEC 2021

In what appears to be a shot at El Salvador President Nayib Bukele’s administration, the United States has imposed sanctions…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…