HomeNewsGuatemala's Former Top Anti-Graft Prosecutor Decries Arrest Warrant
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Guatemala's Former Top Anti-Graft Prosecutor Decries Arrest Warrant

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 SEP 2021 BY ALEX PAPADOVASSILAKIS AND SETH ROBBINS EN

A Guatemalan court has issued an arrest warrant for exiled anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, ending any chance that he will soon return to Guatemala and resume his former work investigating the country’s highest-profile graft cases.

Juan Luis Pantaleón, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office, confirmed to InSight Crime that an arrest warrant had been issued by a judge, but did not provide further details, saying that the case was “under reserve” by the court. According to a copy of the warrant posted by Sandoval, he has been charged with obstruction of justice and breach of duties.

When reached by InSight Crime, Sandoval said he had learned no further details about the case because “they did not allow my lawyer to appear.” Sandoval is currently in the United States after fleeing Guatemala, following his very public July 23 firing.

Consuelo Porras, Guatemala’s Attorney General, had abruptly dismissed Sandoval as head of the country's Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (Fiscalía Especial contra la Impunidad – FECI), citing a lack of confidence in the relationship, though she did not offer details. After his firing, Sandoval gave a press conference in which he accused Porras of obstructing FECI investigations on multiple occasions, including during an inquiry into alleged corruption involving the administration of President Alejandro Giammattei.

A day before the arrest warrant against Sandoval, Porras accused the former prosecutor in a video of launching a campaign of “revenge, disinformation and discredit” against the Attorney General’s Office. Porras also made reference to investigating Sandoval in relation to the disclosure of confidential information after he had left.

In a statement published the same day on Twitter, Sandoval accused Porras of “criminalizing” anyone involved in combating corruption and impunity in Guatemala.

Hours after the warrant was issued, the New York Times reported that Guatemalan prosecutors had opened an investigation into allegations that President Giammattei received a bribe from Russian citizens. The bribery allegation first came up in a previous Times report that quotes Sandoval and investigative documents. In that report, the president's office denied Giammattei had accepted bribes but confirmed his “absolute commitment” to clear up confusion around the accusations. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest warrant against Sandoval is yet another sign that forces within Guatemala’s judiciary are doubling down on efforts to shut down anyone tackling high-level graft.

As the former head of FECI, Sandoval was responsible for multiple high-profile corruption cases, many targeting elite politicians. In the weeks before his dismissal, he appeared to be inching closer to revealing corruption within the administration of President Giammattei.

In the days following his firing, documents obtained by newspaper elPeriódico showed that Porras had sought to curb investigations into high-level court appointments and officials in the president’s inner circle.

Sandoval’s firing drew immense backlash at home and abroad, with many viewing the decision as an attempt to derail what remains of the fight against impunity in Guatemala. The US State Department even went so far as to pause cooperation with Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office.

Now, the accusations against Sandoval have turned criminal, but the lack of detail about the case makes it impossible to gauge the credibility of the allegations.

Sandoval hit back at his former boss in an interview with InSight Crime, saying that “the Attorney General prefers to go after those who have dedicated our energy and careers to investigating the truth and building justice.”

The former prosecutor added: “Her priorities are clear.”

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