Allegations have surfaced of irregular behavior in land purchases by Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina, triggering further speculation that the embattled president's term in office could come to a premature end.
According to an investigation by Guatemalan newspaper elPeriodico, Perez Molina's acquisition of six properties in Boca Ancha -- a community in Guatemala’s eastern department of Izabal -- were plagued by irregularities.
While Perez Molina has had a vacation home for several decades in Boca Ancha -- which sits along the scenic Lake Izabal -- he began acquiring adjacent properties in 2012 through two companies in which he is a stakeholder: Vistas Servicios Electronicas and Plantas de Exportaction, S.A.
One of the properties had previously belonged to a drug trafficker named Arturo Paredes Cordova, who was killed in November 2010. His brother, Jorge Mario, alias “El Gordo,” was extradited to the United States and sentenced to 31 years in prison in April 2010 for cocaine trafficking.
In April, elPeriodico alleged Perez Molina evaded paying taxes on at least two of these properties by under-reporting their value, prompting Guatemala’s land agency (Fontierras) to conduct an internal audit. The audit found multiple irregularities had occurred, including lack of legal documentation and proof that those who sold the properties were the rightful owners.
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The new allegations may spell trouble for Perez Molina, who is already at risk of being impeached due to his potential links to corruption scandals that have roiled Guatemala.
In May, Perez Molina's former private secretary was arrested for leading an enormous fraud ring within the country's social security institute. Earlier that same month his former Vice President, Roxana Baldetti, resigned after her private secretary was accused of running an illegal network through Guatemala's customs agency. In early July, Perez Molina came under further scrutiny when his son-in-law was arrested for allegedly forming part of an influence-peddling network.
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These scandals have led to widespread protests calling for Perez Molina's resignation, but the president has repeatedly refused to step down. Perez Molina intends to serve out the little that remains of his term, which ends just a few months after Guatemala's presidential elections are held in September. However, if it is proven the president knowingly committed wrongdoing in acquiring properties and reporting assets, he may find himself retiring to his vacation home in Izabal sooner than anticipated.