Arrest of Guatemalan President important step to end impunity
Now systemic anti-corruption reforms needed with urgency
Transparency International, the global anti-corruption organisation, recognised today the importance of the arrest of Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina during the closing ceremony of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference, the world’s premier global forum focused on fighting corruption.
President Pérez Molina stepped down on Wednesday night and was arrested within a few hours on Thursday for reportedly receiving bribes, illicit association and fraud in a scheme that deprived the Guatemalan state of millions of dollars. In the scheme, public officials allegedly took bribes in exchange for allowing businesses to evade import duties through the customs agency. A number of high-level officials, including Vice President Roxana Baldetti, have been arrested earlier during the investigation. If found guilty, President Pérez Molina could face up to twenty years in prison.
“The arrest of President Pérez Molina clearly shows that no powerful person should think that their impunity can last forever. The recent developments in Guatemala this week are a cause for celebration. They follow many months of pressure from brave prosecutors, civil society, the UN International Commission Against Impunity, and most importantly people taking the streets. However, this is only the beginning. Now the vital work towards systemic anti-corruption reforms needs to occur in order to prevent such corruption scandals from happening again in future”, said Elena Panfilova, Vice Chair of Transparency International.
Guatemala has had a very bad track record of impunity for corruption in recent years. The justice system was often seen as weak and co-opted by powerful interests.
As the country prepares for General Elections this Sunday, Transparency International calls on the new president to coordinate with the appropriate oversight bodies a thorough investigation into the whole administration of President Pérez Molina.
Note to editors: The 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference took place from 2-4 September 2015 in Putrajaya, Malaysia. It brought together nearly 1,200 delegates from 130 countries from government, the public and private sectors, civil society and more.
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