Guatemala Investigates Claim of Bribe Paid to Its President

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations that Russian residents paid a bribe to the nation’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, a spokesman for the lawyer normal’s workplace mentioned Friday.

The inquiry arose out of info publicized in media experiences, mentioned the spokesman, Juan Luis Pantaleón, who famous that it started on Wednesday, so investigators are within the first levels of their work on the case.

The announcement follows a New York Times report final month that described explosive testimony by a witness who mentioned he had personally delivered a rolled-up carpet stuffed with packages of money to the president’s dwelling.

Guatemala’s prime anti-corruption prosecutor had begun to look into the allegations with a small staff of investigators, figuring out that the witness had possible stumbled upon a plot by a Russian-backed mining firm to bribe the president for the proper to function half of a key port. But simply weeks after their inquiry started, the prosecutor, Juan Francisco Sandoval, was abruptly dismissed by the lawyer normal and fled to the United States with the proof he had compiled.

In a press release to The Times final month, the president’s workplace denied that Mr. Giammattei had accepted bribes however confirmed his “absolute commitment” to clear up confusion across the accusations. The U.S. Department of Justice had already been trying into allegations, a U.S. official mentioned.

The information of the brand new inquiry by Guatemalan authorities got here on the identical day that the lawyer normal issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Sandoval for a breach of duties and obstruction of a felony case, in accordance to native media experiences. Mr. Pantaleón confirmed that the arrest warrant had been issued however wouldn’t specify the costs.

The lawyer normal, María Consuelo Porras, publicly criticized Mr. Sandoval’s work earlier this week, saying that he had by no means knowledgeable her concerning the bribery inquiry and had illegally eliminated inside paperwork.

In retaliation for Mr. Sandoval’s firing, the United States introduced in July that it could now not work with the lawyer normal’s workplace and mentioned officers had “lost confidence” in Ms. Porras. But the Biden administration has continued to work with Mr. Giammattei on migration enforcement, a key space of collaboration between the 2 nations. In July, the administration resumed flights straight expelling migrants to Guatemala.

In a press release launched on Twitter, Mr. Sandoval accused the lawyer normal of spearheading an effort to “criminalize and prosecute” those that contributed to the struggle in opposition to corruption in Guatemala.