HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Elites Busted in Customs Fraud Ring
BRIEF

Guatemala Elites Busted in Customs Fraud Ring

ELITES AND CRIME / 17 APR 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

Authorities in Guatemala have arrested two high-level current and former government officials -- as well as eighteen other suspects -- for customs fraud. Nevertheless, the accused may be facing light punishment given the country's culture of impunity for political elites.

The alleged head of the criminal network, Juan Carlos Monzon, is the private secretary to Guatemala's Vice President, Roxana Baldetti, reported Prensa Libre. Monzon was outside of the country when authorities conducted the raid, and is currently considered a fugitive from justice.

BaldMonzon

Juan Carlos Monzon, secretary to Guatemala VP Roxana Baldetti and alleged head of La Linea

However, Guatemala's Attorney General's Office, known as the Public Ministry, announced on April 16 that the current head of Guatemala's Superintendency of Tax Administration (SAT), Alvaro Omar Franco Chacon, and his predecessor, Carlos Enrique Muñoz Roldan, had been arrested. Eighteen other suspects who allegedly formed part of the customs network known as La Linea ("The Line") were also detained. 

AduanaHeads

The acting head of Guatemala's trade authority, Alvaro Omar Franco Chacon (left) and his predecessor, Carlos Enrique Muñoz Roldan (right)

La Linea was comprised of SAT executives, mid-ranking officials, and border agents, who lowered taxes on imported goods in exchange for financial kickbacks, according to Prensa Libre. The criminal network reportedly operated in the seven busiest border crossings in Guatemala.

The arrests were reportedly the result of a ten-month investigation by the Public Ministry and the United Nation's International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of these suspects is only the first step of the investigation, and Guatemala's track record of impunity suggests any celebrations would be premature. Even if enough evidence is collected to build a case against Chacon and Muñoz, widespread corruption in Guatemala's judicial system could prevent prosecutors from reaching a conviction. The fact that Monzon left Guatemala just days before the arrests suggests he may have been tipped off by someone within the Public Ministry or another government agency, a possible indication of the level of protection he enjoys. 

Another challenge facing prosecutors is the degree to which Guatemala's justice system has been co-opted by special interests, as documented in a special series by InSight Crime. Interest groups have taken advantage of regulations that allow for the special election of high court judges, in order to maneuver their allies into Guatemala's most powerful judicial posts. Last year, Guatemala's Constitutional Court temporarily reversed the selection of high court judges due to public outcry over levels of corruption in this process. 

SEE ALSO: The War for Guatemala's Courts

The CICIG has achieved a number of victories against impunity in Guatemala, and US Vice President Joe Biden has publicly backed the extension of the CICIG's mandate, which ends in September 2015. However, President Otto Perez Molina has indicated he is not interested in allowing the CICIG to operate past this date.

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

ELITES AND CRIME / 19 JAN 2022

A Guatemalan judge recently heralded by the US State Department as a “woman of courage” says she is being attacked…

ELITES AND CRIME / 17 NOV 2021

On November 5, 2019, threatening pamphlets appeared on the streets of El Callao, a mining town in Venezuela's eastern state…

ELITES AND CRIME / 16 DEC 2021

Two sons of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States related to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

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…