On Friday, Guatemalan security forces detained 17 persons, including a former vice minister of Communications, for their alleged involvement in a case of corruption in the construction of a highway.
The Public Ministry (MP, Prosecutor’s Office) reported at a press conference that those captured are involved in “various irregularities” in the construction of a 14-kilometer highway in the department of Chimaltenango, 50 kilometers west of Guatemala City.
According to the authorities, the detainees are accused of fraud, committed by theft and money laundering.
The former administrative deputy minister of the Communications, Infrastructure and Housing portfolio, Édgar Aníbal Gómez Escobar is one of the 17 detainees and after his capture he was transferred to the Tower of Courts, in the center of the capital.
Gómez Escobar was appointed to the post in April 2018 by the president at that time, Jimmy Morales Cabrera, and he ceased to be an official with the arrival of the new Administration of Alejandro Giammattei, last January.
The highway was launched in April 2019, with an investment of 450 million quetzales (around 58 million dollars), and since then it has been closed on at least two occasions due to collapses in the parallel retaining walls.
The section was classified as a “mega work” by President Morales, who inaugurated it in the company of the Minister of Communications, Jose Luis Benito.
The prosecutor in charge of the case, Stuardo Campo, said this Friday that they requested an arrest warrant for Benito, but the judge in charge of the case, Mynor Moto, did not see his involvement in the alleged corrupt plot.
Campo explained at a press conference that the investigation began “ex officio” after “the news broadcast in the media” about the collapses in the infrastructure of the work.
According to the prosecutor, there were “artifices in the preparation and approval of the bidding rules” for the project and “notorious failures” in construction, in addition to “cost overvaluation.”
The investigation also determined that the Ministry of Communications allegedly paid land rights to people who did not own the spaces, in an alleged embezzlement of the State for almost two million dollars.
Most of the detainees this Friday are linked to this scam related to the purchase of land.
The security forces carried out a total of 31 raids to execute 17 of the 29 scheduled captures and also seized relevant documentation for the case.
Authorities also issued an arrest warrant against the legal representative of one of the companies in charge of the project, Constructora Nacional, SA, although it could not be enforced.
Guatemala is, according to international organizations, one of the most corrupt countries in the American continent, with indices similar to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti.