Former Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom (2008-2012) and his former minister Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, the current president of Oxfam International, were arrested on Tuesday as part of a corruption scandal, the prosecutor’s office said.
At the time President Colom’s finance minister, Fuentes Knight was also arrested, a new blow for the British NGO he chairs, Oxfam International, already involved in a scandal with prostitutes in Haiti, which led to the resignation on Monday of Deputy Executive Director Penny Lawrence.
The former 66-year-old head of state was arrested at his home in a wealthy neighborhood in the east of Guatemala City, AFP confirmed to the head of the special prosecutor’s office against impunity (FECI), Juan Francisco Sandoval.
Mr. Colom, who had been the country’s first social democratic president since Jacobo Arbenz (1951-1954), is accused of fraud and embezzlement in the purchase of several hundred buses in 2009 destined for different neighborhoods. the city.
In the same year, the ruling National Union of Hope (UNE) party tabled a bill in Parliament to exempt the purchase of new buses from taxes.
According to the prosecution, the bus bill for the capital, for which four companies had been tendered for 25-year public transport service, had been inflated.
“I am convinced that basically there will be nothing” in the file because “for us, all this is legal,” said the former head of state, wearing a dark blue suit, journalists to his arrival at the courthouse.
“I trust, what we did was right,” he added serenely.
Alvaro Colom is the second former president arrested for corruption, after his successor at the helm of the country, Otto Pérez (2012-2015), arrested in 2015 after a scandal of misappropriation of funds within the customs. The latter is still waiting to know the date of his trial.
The current president, Jimmy Morales, has been suspected of illegal financing of his campaign, but remains protected by his immunity, which Parliament refused to lift last September.
Nine of the 13 members of the Colom government, which signed the agreement on public transport in the capital, were also arrested, including those in charge of Education, Defense, Labor and Health.
Regarding the detention of Mr. Fuentes Knight, an Oxfam spokesman said: “To our knowledge, no charges have been brought against him.
“He was fully transparent with the Oxfam board and management regarding the investigation, which started after his appointment as president” and “maintains he is innocent,” he said.