Prosecutors again accuse Guatemala president of corruption
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemalan prosecutors and a United Nations’ anti-corruption commission again accused President Jimmy Morales of corruption Thursday related to alleged illegal campaign financing while he was secretary general of his party.
Electoral crimes prosecutor Oscar Schaad said businessmen funneled more than $1 million to Morales’ National Convergence Front party, which carried him to the presidency.
Schaad said evidence shows the campaign donations were never reported to electoral authorities. He said the companies that allegedly made the illegal contributions are in food, cement, financial services and other business sectors.
“We have detected that there was financing that simply was not reported to the (electoral) court and that for various reasons the court did not detect it,” Schaad said.
Presidential spokesman Heinz Heimann called the investigation inconclusive and called on the private sector to continue investing in the country.
“We cannot allow there to be distractions that turn us off the path toward a greater Guatemala,” Heimann said.
Javier Hernandez, the party’s leader in congress, dismissed the accusations as being “more a political than legal attack.”
In August, Guatemala’s chief prosecutor asked a court to strip Morales of his immunity so suspected campaign finance violations could be investigated.
Days later, Morales was blocked by the courts when he tried to expel the head of the U.N. anti-corruption commission that has been working with Guatemalan prosecutors to investigate graft.
Guatemala’s Supreme Court sent a request to the congress in September asking it to lift Morales’ immunity, but lawmakers voted down the measure.
Legislators are currently considering changes that would eliminate some crimes and lessen penalties for others, changes that would potentially benefit the businessmen involved in the latest case.
Ivan Velasquez, head of the U.N.-backed anti-corruption mission, called on lawmakers to not create “amnesties” disguised as law reforms. He did not rule out arrests in the case and said prosecutors would ask the electoral court to cancel the party.
Thelma Aldana, Guatemala’s top prosecutor, said Thursday’s announcement was the second phase of the investigation announced in August. Each phase uncovered about $1 million illicit campaign funds.