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Guatemala: New details given in graft probe of president

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May. 15, 2018 11:38 PM EDT

Guatemala: New details given in graft probe of president

BC-LT–Guatemala-Corruption,1st Ld-Writethru

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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Investigators revealed new details Tuesday night of a probe against Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales relating to purported illicit campaign financing, saying the material is sufficient to again seek to have his immunity from prosecution lifted.

Chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana said businesspeople allegedly created a means to deliver anonymous funds to the National Convergence Front when Morales was the party’s secretary-general and legal representative during his presidential run.

The announcement, made public the day before Aldana’s term in office ends, puts her Morales-picked successor, Maria Consuelo Porras, in the position of choosing whether to pursue the case.

“There are abundant elements to think of the possibility of beginning a hearing” on withdrawing Morales’ immunity, Aldana said, adding that some documents are still pending but she believes Porras, who is to be sworn in Thursday, should be able to do so within two weeks.

Morales was in Israel and did not immediately comment, but in the past he has denied wrongdoing. A presidential spokesman said there was no immediate comment.

Aldana alleged that the money, some $2 million, was channeled through a company called Nova Servicios to the party without being reported to electoral authorities as Guatemalan law requires.

The businesspeople named are involved in cement, beverage, food and supermarket companies, and all have been summoned to appear before a judge in the case.

“Financing political parties is not a crime. The crime is to finance political campaigns anonymously or with resources from organized crime,” said Ivan Velasquez, head of a U.N.-sponsored anti-graft commission in Guatemala that is also involved in the probe.

Tuesday’s revelations are the third part of an investigation against Morales. Two previous attempts to lift the president’s immunity were not approved by Congress.

Aldana and the U.N. commission have pushed a number of high-profile anti-corruption investigations that have swept up a number of officials, including former President Otto Perez Molina. He is currently behind bars awaiting trial and denies any wrongdoing.

Morales was elected in 2015 in a campaign when he ran on the slogan “neither corrupt nor a thief.”



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