Crime & Justice

Ex-Guatemala president handed 16 years in prison for corruption

Guatemala City, Dec 7 (EFE).- Guatemala’s former president Otto Pérez Molina was found guilty Wednesday on illicit association and customs fraud counts and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a corruption case that led to his 2015 resignation.

Pérez Molina, 72, and his vice president Roxana Baldetti, 60, were each sentenced to 16 years in prison – eight years for each crime – in the case baptized by the authorities in 2015 as La Línea (The Line). They were acquitted of illegal enrichment charges.

The court determined that each was aware of the illegal operations of the customs fraud structure that operated in the ports of Guatemala between 2012 and 2015.

Judge Jeannette Valdés sentenced Pérez Molina for “assisting” in the global plan of the corruption structure, which illegally regulated the collection of taxes from importers at Customs.

“It’s a lie. I didn’t do it. I feel disappointed after seven years waiting for this and hearing this sentence,” Pérez Molina told reporters after learning of the court’s decision.

The Prosecutor’s Office alleged that the high command of the structure kept 61 percent of the illegal charges made by the illegal customs network.

In October, the Prosecutor’s Office asked the court to hand down a sentence of 30 years in prison for the pair, as well as a fine of $9.3 million.

During the sentencing, Judge Valdés pointed out that the accusations had inconsistencies that led to acquittals in favor of some of the 29 defendants in the case.

“Some of the accusations lacked detail and that is why they do not allow us to issue a sentence,” said the court, which began the oral and public debate in January.

The La Línea case was revealed in April 2015 by the now-terminated International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig), and caused the fall of Pérez Molina’s government.

The case is considered emblematic as it was the first of a series of investigations led by Cicig that revealed various criminal structures embedded in the Guatemalan state. EFE


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