This article first appeared in DW on August 25, 2021.
The Government of Guatemala denied on Tuesday (24.08.2021) a series of accusations of corruption published in the U.S. newspaper The New York Times (NYT), in which the president of the country, Alejandro Giammattei, is accused of receiving money from a Russian entourage.
“The president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, categorically rejects the affirmation that Russian citizens delivered the money to his house in exchange for a concession”, stated the President’s Social Communication Secretariat.
According to a report in the U.S. media published this Tuesday, a witness affirmed that last June he delivered a package with cash to Giammattei’s house in Guatemala City. The witness told anti-corruption prosecutors in Guatemala that the money came from “a mining company” based in Guatemala and “backed by Russia”, with the objective of “bribing Giammattei” for the right “to operate part of a Guatemalan port”.
Last July, Attorney General and head of the Public Ministry, Consuelo Porras, fired anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, who was investigating the case. “Sandoval was sure she (Porras) would kill the investigation, so she left with all the documents and fled to Washington and turned them over to U.S. law enforcement officials,” the NYT said.
The Guatemalan government rejected the newspaper’s accusations and criticized that “it is striking that what the media report has changed”. According to Giammattei’s government, “they are seeking to position, surprising the media, a narrative about alleged cases of corruption”.
Last August 13, the same Government confirmed in a press conference that the owners of the mining company MayaNíquel -of Russian origin- proposed to lease a space in the port of Santo Tomás de Castilla, in the northeast of Guatemala, at a lower cost than usual.
Meanwhile, the removal of Sandoval in July by Porras provoked a series of demonstrations against the attorney general and also against the president himself. Sandoval is in exile in the United States along with the former head of the Public Ministry Thelma Aldana, who has also been persecuted for her work at the head of the entity between 2014 and 2018, in a period in which both charged more than 250 people including ministers, officials, deputies, and elite businessmen.