HomeNewsBriefRenewed La Línea Investigations Further Implicate Guatemala Officials
BRIEF

Renewed La Línea Investigations Further Implicate Guatemala Officials

ELITES AND CRIME / 14 AUG 2020 BY ALEX PAPADOVASSILAKIS EN

Anti-impunity prosecutors in Guatemala have presented an investigation into one of the country’s most notorious customs fraud networks, showing that even some five years after the La Línea case started, new revelations of corruption continue to emerge.

On August 12, Guatemalan authorities arrested six current and former customs officials, among other individuals, linked to a notorious fraud network known as “La Línea,” or “the Line.” The customs fraud network was exposed in a landmark 2015 investigation that dismantled a multimillion-dollar corruption scheme involving former President Otto Pérez Molina.

The new investigation, which stems from the previous case, alleges that customs officials responsible for verifying imports at one of Guatemala’s busiest ports collected cash bribes on behalf of the La Línea network. The bribes were paid by entities shipping merchandise into Guatemala in exchange for lowering taxes on imported goods, according to a statement released by the anti-impunity unit of the country’s Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía Especializada Contra la Impunidad — FECI).

SEE ALSO: Cocaine Seizures Expose Flaws at Guatemala, Honduras Ports

Between May 2014 and April 2015, the criminal network took in over 5.1 million quetzales ($666,000) in bribes, and the scheme cost the government at least 14.3 million quetzales ($1.85 million) in taxes.

The group relied on a broad network of collaborators, including so-called “consolidators” who manipulated import documents to ensure that taxes would not match the actual value of the shipments arriving in Guatemala, according to the FECI’s statement.

In a raid linked to the case, Guatemalan authorities seized nearly 80 kilograms of ephedrine — a  stimulant medication used to treat breathing problems that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine — worth an estimated 7.8 million quetzales ($1 million).

InSight Crime Analysis

This new investigation is a stark reminder of the central role played by Guatemalan customs officials in large-scale corruption. In this case, three of the officials arrested for suspected fraud were still employed by the country’s customs authority (Superintendencia de Administración Tributaria de Guatemala — SAT) more than five years after their suspected involvement in the criminal scheme.

Santo Tomás de Castilla, the northern port at the heart of the investigation, is one of Guatemala’s busiest customs checkpoints and where authorities already struggle to check the vast quantities of merchandise that pass through it.

Allegations that the La Línea network was able to recruit a team of SAT officials to collect bribes within the port is a blunt reminder of how vulnerable Guatemala’s border authorities are to being corrupted.

SEE ALSO: The Legacy of How Guatemala Destroyed its Own Anti-Corruption Crusade

The investigation — rooted in the unprecedented La Línea fraud case that led to President Pérez Molina’s resignation in 2015 and marked a crowning achievement in Guatemala’s fight against graft — comes at time when anti-corruption efforts have been deliberately weakened from within the state.

It is also a sign of the FECI’s ongoing efforts to take on high-level corruption networks, despite mounting legal attacks and death threats against Guatemalan prosecutors.

In April 2020, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos — CIDH) granted protection measures to FECI head Juan Francisco Sandoval and two of the unit’s prosecutors, whose lives were deemed to be under threat.

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.

Related Content

EXTORTION / 19 FEB 2015

In response to blocked cell phone service, inmates in several Guatemalan prisons have begun using handwritten notes to demand extortion…

GUATEMALA / 25 AUG 2015

Guatemala authorities have captured the alleged heir to one of the nation's preeminent drug trafficking clans, possibly marking the…

EL SALVADOR / 26 MAR 2018

José Luis Merino, a high-ranking and controversial government official in El Salvador, has been the subject of a US-led investigation…

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…