Crime & Justice

Veteran Guatemalan journalist defends his innocence in court

Guatemala City, Aug 8 (EFE).- Renowned Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora Marroquín defended himself Monday in court against accusations of money laundering.

The president of newspaper El Periódico, often critical of President Alejandro Giammattei’s administration, testified in the Seventh Criminal Court in the capital for the first time since his arrest 10 days ago.

Zamora Marroquín said the accusations against him are false and that any income he has obtained “is one hundred percent legal.”

For almost an hour, the 65-year-old engineer refuted each of the accusations brought against him by the prosecutor’s office.

“I feel at peace, I feel calm and I feel serene,” said the founder of El Periódico, whose first statement hearing lasted almost 10 hours and will continue on Tuesday by decision of the judge, Fredy Orellana.

Zamora Marroquín was arrested by security forces on July 29 at his residence, accused of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail.

In the morning, during the beginning of the hearing, one of the prosecutors handling the case, Cinthia Monterroso, asserted in court that the alleged crime of money laundering could have been committed on July 19 of this year, 10 days before his arrest.

According to Monterroso, the complaint against Zamora Marroquín was made on July 22 by Rónald García Navarijo, a former banker accused of corruption in 2017.

According to the ex-banker’s accusation, the journalist allegedly received around $38,000 and did not enter it regularly into the banking system, for which he asked García Navarijo for help.

However, Zamora Marroquín said that the amount was a loan to be able to meet his business obligations.

The journalist said that meeting the financial obligations of his media outlet is a “financial Himalaya” every month and that he has “prestigious” businessmen as witnesses to the origin of all his funds.

In addition, he indicated that García Navarijo was seeking an agreement with the prosecutor’s office to recover around $4 million that had been seized from him in 2017 during his arrest.

“He visited my house unannounced between July 20 and 30 and told me that he was overwhelmed” by the seizure, Zamora said of García Navarijo.

García Navarijo’s accusation against Zamora Marroquín came just two days before the journalist published strong criticism of Giammattei and former trusted officials on July 24.

Zamora Marroquín had warned last year that Giammattei and the head of the prosecutor’s office, Attorney General Consuelo Porras, would try to fabricate a case against him to silence the investigations of his paper.

Porras and the prosecutor in charge of the case, Rafael Curruchiche, were sanctioned this year by the United States under accusations of corruption.

The state department said Porras was sanctioned “due to her involvement in significant corruption.”

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said last Tuesday that he was “concerned” about the arrest of the journalist, as well as about the legal actions that the Guatemalan government has taken against its own justice officials.

At Tuesday’s hearing, scheduled for 10 am local time (16:00 GMT), the judge could decide whether or not to charge the journalist with the accusations brought against him. EFE


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