THIS country's ex-president, vice-president get 16 years jail for corruption

Thursday, 8 December 2022 (14:44 IST)
Former Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina was sentenced to 16 years in prison in a graft case on Wednesday. Then-Vice President Roxana Baldetti was also given the same sentence.

Perez, 72, denied the charges and said the conviction was made "without a shred of proof."

"All that's left is to appeal," he told reporters. He had taken office in 2012, and was forced to resign just months before the completion of his term in 2015.

What were they convicted of?

Perez and Baldetti were found guilty of racketeering and customs fraud. They were acquitted on charges of illicit enrichment.

They were accused of leading a customs fraud network that stole around $3.5 million (around €3.35 million) in state funds. Investigators said importers paid bribes to avoid paying customs duties. A few others have also been charged in the case.

The case was known as "La Linea." It was initially investigated by the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which is now defunct. It was shut down in 2019 by then-President Jimmy Morales after it began investigating him.

Perez has been in prison for the last seven years, as he awaited this verdict. Baldetti was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in a separate fraud case in 2018.

The court ordered Perez to pay 8.7 million quetzales (just over €1 million or $1 million)  Baldetti was fined 8.4 million quetzales.

"The La Linea case is one of the most symbolic and is a milestone in Guatemalan history. It is important that in some way the people of Guatemala have justice and that the case does not go unpunished," Edie Cux, director of Transparency International's local chapter, Citizen Action, told the AFP news agency.

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