Former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina (2012-2015) has been sentenced to 16 years in prison alongside then-Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, in the so-called La Línea case involving an illicit association and customs fraud, which eventually led to their fall from office.
The Guatemala City-based High-Risk Court B found that both defendants knew about the illicit customs fraud structure operating Guatemalan ports between 2012 and 2015. Justice Jeannette Valdés found Pérez Molina guilty of assisting in the overall plan involving tax collections from importers. But he was acquitted in the illicit enrichment case since the prosecution failed to prove there had been an anomalous increase in assets.
It is a lie. I did not do it. I feel disappointed after seven years waiting for this and hearing this sentence, Pérez Molina told reporters after learning of the court's decision.
The leaders of the corruption scheme reportedly kept for themselves 61% of the money paid through the illegal customs network.
Having the opportunity to do a dignified job and responding faithfully to the political constitution, they deviated from their duty to receive bribes, Judge Valdés underlined. She also said the indictment had inconsistencies that resulted in acquittals in favor of some of the 29 defendants in the case. Some of the accusations lacked details and therefore do not allow us to issue a conviction, the court argued.
The Attorney General's Office had asked for a 30-year jail sentence and fines of up to US$ 9.3 million.
The La Línea case was uncovered in April 2015 by the now-defunct International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), which led to the government's fall. Pérez Molina and Baldetti face other corruption charges for alleged malfeasance while in office.
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