The Guatemalan prosecutor’s office said Monday it aims to file charges against Colombia’s current defense minister for alleged illegal actions when he served as head of a UN anti-mafia mission in the Central American country.
Guatemala accuses Ivan Velasquez of illegally endorsing “effective collaboration” agreements of three former Brazilian executives in a bribery case linked to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in Guatemala, said Rafael Curruchiche, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), in a video posted on social media.
From 2013 until its closure in 2019, Velasquez led the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN-backed entity that together with the prosecutor’s office unearthed several corruption scandals.
The most impactful involved former president Otto Perez (2012-2015) who was accused of leading a customs fraud scheme and was sentenced to 16 years in prison last December. AFP
According to Curruchiche, Velasquez and former attorney general Thelma Aldana granted the go-ahead in 2017 to sign the effective collaborator agreements for the investigation against Odebrecht, “which denotes that they had full knowledge of the dark and corrupt negotiations that were being carried out” with the Brazilian firm, which has admitted to massive bribery schemes in many Latin American countries.
The FECI “will undertake the corresponding legal actions” so that Velasquez and others involved in the case “answer for their illegal, arbitrary, and abusive acts,” Curruchiche said, noting that the negotiations caused “serious harm to the state of Guatemala.”
The Colombian minister rejected the accusation, saying he has not “been notified of any requirement by the Guatemalan authorities.”
“My commitment to transparency, justice and the fight against impunity has been and will continue to be the hallmark of my work as a public servant and now as minister of defense,” Velasquez said.
Since the closing of CICIG in 2019, human rights groups and the US government have accused Guatemala of seeking vengeance on prosecutors battling corruption and backsliding on commitments to end impunity.