Latin America & the Caribbean

Ex Guatemalan vice president faces bribery allegations

Guatemala's former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, right, talks with her lawyer Mario Cano as she waits for her hearing inside a courtroom, photographed through a window in Guatemala City, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Baldetti was detained Friday in connection with a customs corruption scandal that previously led to her resignation. Prosecutors are also seeking to investigate President Otto Perez Molina. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Guatemala’s former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, right, talks with her lawyer Mario Cano as she waits for her hearing inside a courtroom, photographed through a window in Guatemala City, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Baldetti was detained Friday in connection with a customs corruption scandal that previously led to her resignation. Prosecutors are also seeking to investigate President Otto Perez Molina. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

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.

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.

Since Friday, several high government officials have stepped down. On Monday, Finance Minister Dorval Carias resigned amid the corruption scandal.

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.

Since Friday, several high government officials have resigned. On Monday,

Desde el pasado viernes y tras las denuncias de corrupción, varios altos cargos renunciaron al cargo. El lunes dimitieron Dorval Carias, ministro de Finanzas, y tres de sus viceministros; Víctor Corado, ministro de Comunicaciones, y dos de sus ministros, e Ikaterina Parrilla, secretaria de Planificación.

 

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