GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission in Guatemala have accused former president and current Guatemala City Mayor Alvaro Arzu of campaign financing corruption.
Arzu is best known for having signed Guatemala’s 1996 peace accord that ended the country’s 36-year civil war.
Chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana says Arzu was involved in transactions with a business that channeled money to Arzu’s Unionist party. She said she would seek to have Arzu’s immunity from prosecution lifted so he can face trial.
The accusations are based on testimony from the wife of ex-army officer Byron Lima. Lima was serving a sentence for the 1998 murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi before he was killed in a prison riot last year.
Lima founded the front business that allegedly channeled money to the party.
Lima was also allegedly getting rich and gaining influence over the prison system while behind bars. Aldana cited Lima’s ex-wife Alejandra Reyes, who said Lima corresponded with Arzu, and even asked for money from him.
Ivan Velasquez, the head of the U.N. commission, said Arzu gave city paychecks to Lima’s relatives.
Arzu said after the press conference that he had given city jobs to inmates’ relatives to help them out, but said they had real duties.
Arzu said “this is our Guatemala, not a Guatemala run by foreigners,” an apparent reference to Velasquez, who is Colombian.
President Jimmy Morales had briefly tried to expel Velasquez from the country for his anti-corruption crusading.
Another man tied to the scheme was a lawyer representing former Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
National Civil Police spokesman Pablo Castillo said that lawyer Moises Galindo has been arrested for alleged ties to money laundering.
Perez Molina resigned in 2015 and is in jail as he awaits trial on corruption charges. Rios Montt is awaiting trial on genocide charges for atrocities committed during his 1982-1983 presidency during the country’s civil war.
Aldana said that Galindo’s arrest was related to the investigation involving Lima, the ex-army officer.
Aldana said Lima’s ex-wife shared recordings with investigators that suggest properties owned by Lima were turned over to Galindo to be put in his name. The properties were allegedly a form of payment from inmates to Lima so that they would be transferred within the prison system.
Lima’s brother, Luis Lima, was also arrested, according to the U.N. anti-corruption commission working in Guatemala. Reyes is a protected witness and was moved out of Guatemala for her safety.