Gu­atemala ar­rests cur­rent, ex-tax chiefs in cor­rup­tion case


Gu­atemala’s cur­rent and for­mer tax chiefs were de­tained along with more than a dozen other peo­ple in a crack­down on a ring that de­frauded the state through bribery and theft and that was led by a top aide to the vice pres­i­dent, au­thor­i­ties said Thurs­day.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­leged that work­ers at the Tax Author­ity ac­cepted bribes in ex­change for charg­ing busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als less than the legal tar­iffs on im­ports.

“This was a crim­i­nal

struc­ture that de­frauded the na­tional trea­sury through the cus­toms” sys­tem, said pros­e­cu­tor Os­car Schaad, who heads the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The gov­ern­ment had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors charged that the ring­leader was Juan Car­los Mon­zon, pri­vate sec­re­tary to Vice Pres­i­dent Rox­ana Baldetti. Mon­zon is out­side the coun­try and not in cus­tody, of­fi­cials said.

Work­ing in tan­dem with a United Na­tions com­mis­sion against im­punity in Gu­atemala, agents raided of­fices and homes and took at least 20 peo­ple into cus­tody, in­clud­ing Tax Author­ity direc­tor Omar Franco and Car­los Munoz, the agency’s for­mer boss.

As Munoz was be­ing taken to court in hand­cuffs, he told The As­so­ci­ated Press that he had been in­formed he was be­ing de­tained for “il­licit cus­toms as­so­ci­a­tion” but was await­ing more de­tails. He said it is clear that the Tax Author­ity needs to be fixed.

“You can’t do some­thing, cure a sick­ness that’s many years old, if (the agency) is not strength­ened,” Munoz said. “You can’t do much in the year and a half when I was there.”

The U.N. com­mis­sion said that through in­ves­ti­ga­tion and wire­taps it was determined that the ring gave the name “The Line” to the scheme, un­der which of­fi­cials set up a par­al­lel pay­ment sched­ule for cus­toms du­ties to ben­e­fit cer­tain busi­ness­peo­ple in ex­change for bribes.

Ivan Ve­lasquez, head of the com­mis­sion, called the in­ves­ti­ga­tion im­por­tant be­cause it touches on “con­tra­band and fraud in gen­eral in a coun­try with such a need for re­sources.”

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