Former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina is sentenced to 16 years in prison

A Guatemalan court has sentenced former president Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general, to 16 years in prison on charges of leading a customs fraud ring that forced him to resign in 2015.

Pérez Molina “is criminally responsible in real competition for the crimes: author of the crime of illicit association and for being an accomplice responsible for the crime of special cases of customs fraud,” said the president of the High Risk Court B of the capital, Irma Jeannette Valdés , when reading the sentence.

Each offense was imposed a sentence of eight years in prison, for a total of 16 years, and more than a million dollars in fines.

The same sentence was received by his former vice president Roxana Baldetti, also accused of leading the fraud. Both were acquitted of the crime of illicit enrichment.

“The court does not doubt at any time that there was some kind of illegal increase in assets,” said Judge Katty Sarceño, who nevertheless admitted that the Prosecutor’s Office could not prove it.

Pérez, 72, resigned from office and was jailed on September 3, 2015 after massive demonstrations against him.

Former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti. Photo: AP.

The former president assured before the ruling that he had “faith and hope” that he would be acquitted of the accusations that led him to resign four months before handing over the presidency.

However, the court decision contradicted him. “I really feel frustrated, I feel disappointed,” he told reporters.

«What is the point of defrauding the State if they could not prove the illicit enrichment? So where is the money? »She questioned, adding that she will appeal the ruling.

The case involving Pérez Molina, known as “La línea”, consisted of a system of tax evasion at customs. It was uncovered by the local Prosecutor’s Office with the accompaniment of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations entity that supported the fight against criminal structures within the State.

According to the investigation, the amount for the bribes received by the structure amounted to about 3.5 million dollars, while the defrauded state for tax evasion reached almost 10 million dollars during the operation, detected between 2013 and 2015.

During the sentence, another 16 people involved in the scam were sentenced. Eleven were acquitted.

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