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U.N.-backed anti-graft body to probe ex-Guatemala leader's assets
September 4, 2015 / 5:51 PM / 2 years ago

U.N.-backed anti-graft body to probe ex-Guatemala leader's assets

By Enrique Pretel
    GUATEMALA CITY, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Enough documentary
evidence exists to prove former Guatemalan President Otto
Perez's involvement in a corruption scandal, the head of a
powerful U.N.-backed anti-graft body which helped topple the
leader and will scrutinize his wealth said.
    Perez, 64, resigned as president and was jailed on Thursday
while a judge weighs charging him in a corruption scandal that
gutted his government and plunged the country into a political
crisis days before a presidential election.
    Perez has repeatedly rejected allegations he profited in a
customs racket known as "La Linea" (The Line), a reference to a
phone hotline for importers looking to avoid customs duties in
exchange for bribes.  
    Prosecutors have said the charges to be brought against
Perez are illicit association, taking bribes and customs fraud,
but he has not yet been charged.
    "We're going to investigate everything," Ivan Velasquez,
head of U.N.-backed International Commission against Impunity in
Guatemala (CICIG), said late Thursday. "The next step is to
examine Mr. Perez's wealth."
    He said the body had "sufficient documentation" to prove
Perez' involvement, and would analyze the fallen president's
"financial information, accounts, real estate, and the eventual
presence of frontmen."
    Velasquez said he would seek a three-month window from the
judge overseeing the case to continue to investigate other
fronts against Perez.
    Beyond wiretaps, evidence against Perez includes documents
among thousands seized during raids, as well as proof of a
meeting between Perez and other alleged members of La Linea at a
property belonging to his political party. 
    So far, the investigation has found that a dozen small and
medium-sized importers of goods mostly coming from Asia have
been implicated in the scam. 
    The CICIG, created by the United Nations and the Guatemalan
government, has been instrumental in pushing forward corruption
accusations against Perez and other members of his
    The aim of the commission, which began operating in 2007, is
to support the prosecutor's office and other governmental bodies
that perform criminal investigations, according to its mandate. 
    Velasquez said he thinks the CICIG model is "exportable to
other countries." 
    In Honduras, a coalition of opposition political groups has
demanded the creation of an independent entity like CICIG to
investigate a corruption scandal at the Institute of Social
    However, bodies like CICIG can only be created by the United
Nations if a sovereign government requests them.

 (Writing by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; Editing by Simon
Gardner and Richard Chang)

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