Ex Guatemalan vice president faces bribery allegations

AP News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2015 3:25 PM
Ex Guatemalan vice president faces bribery allegations

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Prosecutors in Guatemala alleged Monday that former Vice President Roxana Baldetti accepted $3.7 million in bribes as part of a customs corruption scandal that forced her from office and has shaken the government of President Otto Perez Molina.

Baldetti's appearance in court followed her arrest on Friday. Outside the courthouse, a crowd of dozens of people yelled "Corrupt! Thief!" during the heavily guarded hearing.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez noted the prosecutors' statements weren't formal accusations. "The only thing they are doing in legal terms is to state that there is a reasonable suspicion," he said.

Prosecutors said Baldetti, who resigned on May 8, pocketed 50 percent of the bribes funneled to a chain of officials who helped businesses evade import duties. She has denied any wrongdoing.

A criminal ring known as "La Linea," or "The Line," allegedly was led by Baldetti's aide, Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, who currently is a fugitive. Authorities presented a chart diagramming the structure's alleged organization that showed Monzon as the mastermind.

Perez Molina apologized to Guatemalans Sunday for the corruption scandal that has thrown the country into political crisis, but insisted he will not resign his post and that his conscious is clear.

Even business chambers normally supportive of Perez Molina have asked him to resign. Investigators are seeking to revoke the president's immunity from prosecution in the case.

Several government officials and private citizens have been arrested as part of the investigation spearheaded by prosecutors and a U.N. commission probing criminal networks in Guatemala.

The U.N. commission has presented wiretap conversations in which participants mention "the R," ''the No. 2" and "the lady," suspected references to Baldetti.