GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – Guatemalan officials confirmed Friday that they are attempting to arrest a dismissed anti-corruption attorney whose dismissal caused the United States to reduce cooperation with the Central American nation’s legal system.
The warrant for Juan Francisco Sandoval’s arrest was confirmed by prosecutor’s spokesman, Juan Luis Pantaleón, the day after Attorney General Consuelo Porras announced on Twitter that he was being investigated for allegedly leaked confidential information, among other things.
Later on Friday, Pantaleón said the attorney general’s office had opened an investigation into alleged bribes President Alejandro Giammattei received from Russian businessmen after media reports reported the alleged bribes.
“There is an investigation into information published in media interviews and publications,” said Pantaleón, adding that he was referring to reports that a person connected to a Russian businessman gave money to giammattei in a carpet have.
Sandoval, who said he was investigating Giammattei for the same reason, as well as other senior officials, were fired on July 23 and fled to the US fearing for his safety.
Sandoval responded to Porras by accusing her of “pursuing a strategy to criminalize and prosecute all those who have for years contributed to strengthening the judiciary and fighting corruption and impunity”.
He accused her of interfering in the investigation into the presidential bribery allegedly involving a large port. No charges were brought in this case.
Sandoval’s impeachment in July caused the US government to lose confidence in Guatemala’s commitment to fighting corruption and to temporarily stop working with the attorney general.
Many Guatemalans have also held street protests in recent weeks, accusing the government of stopping attempts to exterminate corrupt officials.
Suspicions were fueled Thursday when the country’s highest court issued a verdict that could keep some corrupt officials out of jail. The Constitutional Court overturned a law that forbade those convicted of corruption to five years or less imprisonment from paying a fine instead of serving a term behind bars.
It applies to convictions by civil servants and courts for criminal offenses that include, among other things, fraud, bribery, passive embezzlement, abuse of office and influence on human trafficking.
Potential beneficiaries of the decision include one of the court’s judges, Néster Vásquez, who was accused by the Special Prosecutor of Impunity of manipulating the election of judges over others
Vazquez, along with former President Alvaro Colom, who was accused of involvement in fraud and embezzlement, was included on a recently released US list of suspected corrupt officials in the area.
In 2019, then-President Jimmy Morales forced a United Nations-backed anti-corruption mission that had worked with local prosecutors to stamp out transplants and led to the detention of several senior officials, including former President Otto Perez Molina.
On Friday, the former head of this UN mission, Iván Velásquez, made a declaration of solidarity with Sandoval, “whom the corrupt Guatemalan public prosecutor Consuelo Porras had arrested.
“Sooner rather than later, the people will restore the rule of law and the corrupt of all kinds will pay for their wrongdoings.”
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