HomeNewsBriefGuatemala State Corruption Highlighted by Property Theft Ring
BRIEF

Guatemala State Corruption Highlighted by Property Theft Ring

GUATEMALA / 9 DEC 2013 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Authorities in Guatemala have arrested 17 people allegedly involved in a network that stole property by falsifying documents with the help of corrupt government employees, highlighting systemic corruption and the state’s inability to protect the basic rights of its citizens.

Public Ministry officials have received 1,000 reports of property theft linked to the network since it began operating in 2000, reported Prensa Libre. The trial has begun for the arrested suspects — among them 14 lawyers — but authorities believe the group could total up to 47 members.

Officials said the structure, which operated mainly in Guatemala City, Sacatepequez and Izabal, consisted of lawyers, front men, intermediaries and public sector employees.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

The majority of victims were elderly Guatemalans residing in the United States, reported La Hora. Using their connections, members of the network got information about the owners of properties found vacant, and then falsified their signatures on sales contracts that were notarized by corrupt public officials. The group used a company belonging to the network’s leader to launder money obtained through the sale of the stolen properties and has also been connected to four murder cases.

One of the lawyers arrested — Rodolfo Lazaro Padilla — was the defense attorney for the son of a former Supreme Court president investigated for the disappearance of his wife.

InSight Crime Analysis

Property theft is a rising problem in Guatemala, where 1,400 cases have been documented this year and the crime has been linked to 114 murders. Despite the establishment of a General Property Registry in 2011, the country continues to lack effective controls to combat the problem.

The makeup of this network demonstrates how corrupt state employees are essential to such crime and allow Guatemalan criminal groups to act with impunity. In another high-profile case of official corruption earlier this year, the country’s head of passports was arrested on human smuggling charges.

While the arrests, coupled with the dismantling of a money laundering network earlier this week, are positive moves against such paper-based crime, the fact the network existed for so many years before it was dismantled should be a source of concern.

The trend is not limited to Guatemala — similar cases have been documented in Colombia, where various officials have been tied to the illegal stripping of land titles from peasants by criminal groups, particularly in Uraba, Antioquia.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Tags

Related Content

GUATEMALA / 12 NOV 2010

Guatemalan authorities believe the accomplice of an Indian man captured in the airport in New Dehli this week connected to…

BELIZE / 22 FEB 2011

Belize's ambassador to Guatemala has said that the Belize military may begin patrolling the Guatemalan side of the border in…

EL CHAPO / 31 AUG 2012

Reports suggested that Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman uses Guatemala and Honduras as hideouts, aided by his connections…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…