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.

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.

Tags

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 / 26 SEP 2013

Various government employees were among the 22 suspects arrested in Guatemala in relation to a car theft ring linked to…

GUATEMALA / 18 JAN 2011

The President of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, announced that he plans to evaluate whether to extend the state of siege declared…

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 MAR 2017

On March 2, InSight Crime held a Facebook Live session to discuss current events related to organized crime in Latin…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…