PRESS RELEASE 072 | Photo: La Red.
In a joint operation,the Special Anti-Impunity Prosecutor’s Bureau ( FECI) of the Attorney General’s Office, with support from the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), conducted 48 search warrants orders, 22 arrest warrants and 10 subpoenas requested by the first Instance Criminal Court.
The following individuals were captured:
- Jorge Rolando Barrientos Pellecer (Former Mayor).
- Rossana Schoenfeld Gramajo De Barrientos (Barrientos’ relative).
- Maximiliano Ingemar De León Argueta (City Hall Officer).
- Carlos Daniel Illescas López (City Hall Officer).
- María Elisa López Ixtabalán (FormerGovernor of Quetzaltenanto).
- Carlos Roberto Pereira Gálvez (City Hall Officer).
- Willy Rolando Vásquez De León (Businessman).
- Carmen María Barrientos Salguero (Barrientos’ relative).
- René Arturo Morales Rosal (Barrientos’ close).
- Ana Gabriela Barrientos Salguero (Barrientos’ relative).
- Julio César SajGüinac (Businessman).
- Luis Alberto Menchú Maldonado (Businessman).
- Mario César Pacay García (City Hall Officer).
- Vivian Carolina Jacobs Rodríguez (Barrientos’ close).
- Celso Sarceño González (Businessman).
- Werner Gudiel Domínguez Sánchez (Businessman).
Those captured are accused, among others,of the following crimes:Illicit association, fraud, passive and active bribery, money laundering, embezzlement and abuse of authority.
A joint investigation conducted by FECI and the CICIG Office in Quetzaltenango unveiled the existence of an criminal network,composed of city hall officials (Mayor and municipal council members and the Planning Office Chief); businessmen and other individuals. They worked in an organized and planned manner to be granted at least 122 municipal contracts fraudulently, in exchange for large amounts of money, which reached 40% of the contract value.
In 2004, Jorge Rolando Barrientos Pellecer won the elections and was appointed mayor of Quetzaltenango. He was then reelected for the 2008-2012 and 2012-2016 terms. To carry out the allegued corrupt practices in the management of public works, Barrientos Pellecer established a network including councilors, trustees and individuals belonging to his closest circle. Several sources referred to this group as “the major’s friends group.”
The network members held strategic positions on key commissions, such as the Infrastructure Commission, Municipal Water Company Commission, Public Works Commission, Electrification Commission, Finance Commission, among others.Some of them headed such bodies.From these prositions, it was granted that certain businessmen – with which bribes had been previously agreed upon – would be benefited with the municipal contracts.
The builder Palomo Lepe, the main contractor, hid his participation in the public works offers through 12 companies — two established by him through other people and ten belonging to other builders. The 12 companies participated in the public bids under the guise of bidders in exchange for 10% of the contract value.
The public work was actually carried out by the builder Palomo Leppe, while the alleged contractors transferred his company 90% of its value, through checks to his employees or suppliers.
Likewise, City Hall officials divided among them 20 to 30% of the work. Carlos Daniel Illescas López, city counselor, and former governor of Quetzaltenango, María Elisa López Ixtabalán, served as mediators between the network and the constructor. The officials received the proceedings through debt payment, vehicles, and cash payments, among others.
The investigation established that checks were paid to the employees of the businessman and now collaborator in the case, Palomo Leppe. This was confirmed in his statements which, along with the analysis of the bidding processes, serve as evidence of fraud in the granting of public contracts.
In addition, the financial analysis and the identification of assets, investments, cash payments and documents filed before the general comptroller’s office, are evidence of the assets hiding.
CICIG Office in Quetzaltenango (Xela)
It should be noted that this is the second large-scale corruption case filed by FECI and the CICIG Office in Xela, located in the Western regions of Guatemala. The western region is among the poorest and most unequal in the country and the source of a vast migration flows to the United States.
The CICIG Office in Quetzaltenango opened in October 2016, with the support of the United States.
The fight against corruption and impunity has been expanded to the whole national territory of Guatemala, thanks to the joint work of the Attorney General’s Office and CICIG.