Guatemala ex-president maintains innocence at court appearance

Guatemala ex-president maintains innocence at court appearance

[JURIST] Former Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina [BBC profile] declared his innocence Friday at his hearing for corruption charges. Judge Migues Angel Galvez suspended proceedings until Tuesday. Molina resigned [resignation letter; NPR report] on Thursday amid corruption charges related to an alleged multimillion dollar customs fraud in Molina’s administration. Molina was publicly charged for his role in propagating a scheme [AP report] in which business leaders paid bribes to avoid having to pay duties to Guatemala’s customs agency. Molina resigned hours after Guatemala’s attorney general issued an arrest warrant on Wednesday. The National Congress of the Republic of Guatemala [official website] approved Molina’s resignation by a vote of 118-0 and he was jailed [NYT report] late on Thursday. Guatemala’s Congress swore in by unanimous vote [official press release, in Spanish] 79-year-old Alejandro Maldonado, a former judge and acting vice-president before Molina’s resignation, on Thursday. National general elections are scheduled for September 6, but it is unclear if the elections will be held [New Yorker report]. Molina would have been ineligible for re-election [BBC report] based on constitutional rules regarding term limits.

Corruption remains a major political issue around the world. Earlier in 2015, the former governor of the US state of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, was sentenced to a two-years in prison for his role in a corruption scheme [JURIST report], where he and his wife accepted more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from a businessman in exchange for promoting the individual’s business. Last week, a federal court in Pakistan issued an arrest warrant for former Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, for Gilani’s alleged involvement in the Trade Development Authority scandal [JURIST report] in which trade subsidies amount to millions of rupees were disbursed to several fake companies. Earlier in August, Brazil’s attorney general charged two top political figures with corruption [JURIST report]. Eduardo Cunha, current speaker of the lower house of congress, was charged with accepting five million dollars in bribes, corruption and money laundering. Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, who served as president of Brazil from 1990-92, was also charged with corruption. Also in August, Senegal’s highest court upheld a graft conviction and six-year prison term [JURIST report] against Karim Wade, the son of former president Abdoulaye Wade. A month ago, a former general in China’s People’s Liberation Army, Gu Junshan, was sentenced to death by a Chinese military court for corruption charges [JURIST report].