Ex-Guatemala president denies corruption

Former Guatemalan president Otto Perez has denied corruption allegations, which led to his resignation, in a court appearance.


“I did not receive (corrupt) money,” Perez said on Friday.

Perez made the statement after the court heard several recorded phone calls that appeared to refer to him as the top figure in a corruption ring.

To back up his claim, Perez stressed that Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, alias El Chapo, offered him 10 times the figure he allegedly accepted in exchange for letting him escape in 1993.

Perez said he refused Guzman’s $US8 million ($A11.41 million) offer.

“I could have, but I did not do it (take the money) because it is against my principles,” Perez told the court.

Guzman was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and extradited to Mexico, where he escaped from prison in 2001.

He was arrested again in 2014 in Mexico, but again managed to escape in July.

By Perez’s own account, based on the allegations made by the prosecutors, the corruption ring that is being investigated would have granted him about $US800,000 of a total of more than $US3.7 million raised by the scheme.

“There are things that are a lot more important than money,” Perez said.

He cited the advice of his lawyer to refuse to answer the prosecutor’s questions.

Congress accepted Perez’s resignation on Thursday and appointed vice president Alejandro Maldonado to fulfil his presidential mandate ending in January.

Perez was detained early on Friday, and it remained uncertain whether he would subsequently be released or placed under arrest.

In the recorded conversations played in court, Perez’s former vice president Roxana Baldetti, who was arrested last month, appeared to refer to Perez as “the chairman of the company,” “number 1” and “the owner of the estate”.

Prosecutors believe this is evidence that Perez, 64, a retired general, was directly involved in the corruption network.

Guatemala’s 7.5 million voters are to elect a new president and vice president on Sunday, but the new president wouldn’t take office until January.

Perez’s mandate was constitutionally limited to one term.

Perez stands charged with criminal association, corruption and fraud in connection with a ring that helped importers avoid millions of dollars in customs fees in exchange for bribes.