Witness Accuses Guatemalan President of Funding Campaign with Construction Bribes

José Luis Sanz writes in El Faro about the sworn testimonies regarding bribery and campaign contributions relating to the election of President Alejandro Giammattei, and the attempts by the Attorney General’s office to put a brake to the investigations.

It is part of an ongoing investigation opened by the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) after finding the equivalent of nearly $16 million USD in cash tucked in suitcases in a house in Antigua.


A sworn testimony claims that Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei negotiated a contribution of $2.6 million USD to his 2019 election campaign in exchange for keeping a minister from the prior administration in his post to continue operating a corruption network. A second source who worked on Giammattei’s campaign confirmed the deal to El Faro. The FBI and U.S. State Department have copies of the testimony.

The recording and the identity of the witness are stashed in a safe inside Guatemala’s High-Risk Tribunal D, presided over by Judge Erika Aifán. A former confidant of President Alejandro Giammattei — identified in court documents as “Witness A” — accused him of negotiating the delivery of 20 million quetzales ($2.6 million USD) in bribes from construction companies to finance his campaign in 2019. In exchange, according to the witness, Giammattei promised to keep then-Minister of Communications, Infrastructure, and Housing José Luis Benito in his post for a year in order to allow him to continue operating a multimillion-dollar corruption scheme of infrastructure projects.

[…]

The sealed declaration was recorded in a closed hearing in the presence of the judge, two prosecutors, and a defense lawyer on May 18, 2021. It was part of an ongoing investigation opened by the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) in October 2020 after finding the equivalent of nearly $16 million USD in cash tucked in suitcases in a house in Antigua Guatemala rented by Benito. The discovery led to accusations of money laundering against Benito, as well as a criminal probe into Bruni’s possible involvement.

Twelve highway construction projects worth more than $191 million USD are allegedly linked to this pact. Official documents show that 11 of them are underway and the last is accepting proposals. According to prosecutors, Benito and Giammattei agreed that the companies would receive advance payments or new contracts in exchange for the campaign contribution.

[…]

Last November, the Public Prosecutor’s Office officially asked Judge Erika Aifán to submit the sealed envelope containing the identity of Witness A to the new prosecutors assigned to the case. The content of the request letter implies that the original prosecutors had refused to reveal the identity, shielded by legal protections for the May 18 hearing.

In a written response, Aifán refused to turn over the information, explaining that the testimony is already part of a judicial process beyond the attorney general’s control, and the recording and the identity of the witness are now evidence in the court’s custody.

Two months later, on Jan. 13, Porras asked the Supreme Court of Justice to remove the immunity from prosecution of Aifán, one of the most widely-recognized anti-corruption and anti-drug trafficking judges in Guatemala. In 2018, she convicted nine construction magnates for participating in a bribery ring. For years has faced constant threats and legal harassment from actors tied to those in power. The current attorney general, who the U.S. State Department included on the Engel List for “a pattern of obstruction of investigations into corruption,” is accusing Aifán of abuse of power and dereliction of duty.


The article ends with a quote from Juan Francisco Sandoval, the former head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), who was dismissed by the Attorney General, ““Is Giammattei involved in acts of corruption? I don’t doubt it. The attorney general protects the president, and it’s evident that if she does so it’s because the president asked her to.”

You can read the full piece, with links and photos, here, Witness Accuses Guatemalan President of Funding Campaign with Construction Bribes

Pare leer la versión original española, haga clic aquí, Testigo acusa a Giammattei de financiar su campaña con sobornos de constructoras.



Categories: Corruption, Guatemala, Human Rights, Impunity, Justice, Legal, Presidential Elections

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