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  HOME | Central America

Accused in Customs Scam Reveals Former Prez Perez Molina's Involvement

GUATEMALA CITY - A businessman, among the 24 accused in the customs corruption network known as La Linea, or The Line, testified Monday against former Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina, alleging he received a substantial part of the bribes.

"50 percent of the bribes went to Otto Perez Molina and former vice president Roxana Baldetti," said businessman Salvador Estuardo Gonzalez, in a hearing to determine the trial of the 24 accused.

Gonzalez, who held a mid-level position in the La Linea told Judge Miguel Angel Galvez he came to know Baldetti and Perez Molina while they were still in power and became their operator within the country's tax authority, Superintendency of Tax Administration, or SAT.

"The payment made by the importers (who used "La Linea") did not go into state coffers. This collection was handed to the president and the vice president," admitted Gonzalez, adding he used other names for Perez Molina and Baldetti in the papers in which he documented the payments made.

"It was I who identified the president and vice president as 1 and 2 for the purpose of distribution of money," he explained.

According to Gonzalez, some 10 percent of Perez Molina and Baldetti's share was distributed between him and Baldetti's private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, who has been a fugitive since April 16.

Gonzalez said although the money for the presidential duo was handed over to Monzon Rojas, he himself met Perez Molina on more than one occasion, including at the presidential house, to advise him about the work in SAT.

The businessman also said he had handed over $6,500 in cash to former director of customs, Claudia Mendez Asencio, as her share for her role in the conspiracy.

Last week, a teary-eyed Ascencio had proclaimed her innocence before being sent to preventive custody.

On Monday, the Guatemalan court began the "intermediate" stage of the case that came to light in April and has already led to the resignations of Baldetti in May, and Perez Molina, in September.
 

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