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At the forum "Young and Committed", Commissioner Iván Velásquez called upon the youth to join forces in fighting impunity.



Guatemala, April 26, 2011. The investigation of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) established that former President Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera—together with former Ministers Manuel Hiram Maza Castellanos and Eduardo Arévalo Lacs and members of the Army—formed part of an organized structure that, from within Government and administrative and financial bodies, were able to create impunity and misappropriate funds from the public purse.

This argument was put forward by the CICIG lawyer, Flor de María Gálvez, before the Eleventh Trial Court during the second day of final arguments in the trial of the three former public officials accused of misappropriating GTQ 120 million from the Ministry of National Defense (MDN) in 2001. The Commission requested the maximum sentence for embezzlement of 10 years in prison as well as the maximum fine of GTQ 25 million.

"The existence of a parallel structure within the State of Guatemala was demonstrated. This structure assisted in placing individuals in certain posts with a view to misappropriating State of Guatemala funding," she said.

The lawyer also requested that the Court strip the accused of their political rights and the right to be elected and disqualify them from holding public office.

"These officials, who had taken an oath to comply with the Constitution, abused the trust placed in them by the Guatemalan people and focused their efforts solely on plundering State coffers, setting the worst possible example to Guatemalans," said the lawyer.

She added that because of their lack of integrity, the three officials did not deserve to hold positions in government given that "public sector jobs belong to the State rather than individuals".

The lawyer underlined the importance of the expert opinions demonstrating the misappropriation of GTQ 120 million from the public purse.

Case background
Alfonso Portillo used his position as President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Army, together with the consent of the Ministers of National Defense and Public Finance, to order the budget adjustment whereby the Ministry of National Defense was allocated GTQ 120 million.

After approving the transfer of GTQ 120 million to the Ministry of National Defense through Government Agreement 16-2001, former President Portillo ordered Napoleón Rojas Méndez and Jacobo Esdras Salán Sánchez (former heads of private security) to transfer and deliver money totalling GTQ 30 million on March 5, 6 and 9, 2001 to José Armando Llort Quiteño (former President of the National Mortgage Credit Bank).

Maza Castellanos was involved in the embezzlement act by consenting to the misappropriation of these millions. To do so, he used his position as Minister of Public Finance to order the Technical Director of the Budget to take the necessary steps to credit the MDN with GTQ 120 million, under budget line 285 for "materials and equipment". Maza took these actions based on verbal instructions received from the former President.

On Tuesday, February 27, 2001, Maza signed the ministerial order approving judgement 115 of the Technical Budget Directorate, which was lacking an analysis of the reasons justifying the adjustment, as provided for under the Budget Adjustments Manual.

Arévalo Lacs approved the misappropriation of GTQ 120 million from the public purse by signing Government Decision 16-2001 as Minister of National Defense. This decision facilitated the GTQ 120 million transfer to the MDN.

"He gave his consent for Captain Juan José de León Pineda (formed Head of the Financial Subdivision of the Finance Department of the Army) to withdraw GTQ 120 million in cash at the Banco de Guatemala in order to transfer the funds to former President Portillo. Also, in June 2001, he ordered the issuing of 5 certificates justifying the outgoing money, which were subsequently filed as confidential military documents," said the lawyer.

She gave details of each piece of evidence—including documents, expert opinions and testimonies—presented during the trial and gave her assurances that they proved the guilt of former President Portillo and the two former ministers.

Gálvez said the Commission was acting as a complementary prosecutor in the proceedings, based on its mandated responsibility to support Guatemalan institutions in the criminal prosecution of crimes committed by illegal security forces and clandestine security organizations.

The final arguments of the other prosecution parties will be heard tomorrow.

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  The Republic of Guatemala, a mountainous country that lies in the Central American isthmus, has an estimated population of 13 million people.
  Guatemala won its independence in 1821, following almost three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.
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