Oxfam International chair held over Guatemala graft scandal

REUTERS Juan Alberto Fuentes was Guatemala's finance minister before he became chairman of Oxfam International

The chairman of the charity Oxfam International, Juan Alberto Funes, has been arrested in Guatemala.

He was detained as part of an investigation into a corruption scandal dating back to his time as Guatemala’s finance minister.

While his arrest is not related to his role at Oxfam, it will heap further pressure on the charity which is still reeling from revelations that its staff hired prostitutes in Haiti.

‘Entirely open’

Oxfam International’s executive director Winnie Byanyima said that Mr Fuentes had been “entirely open with his Oxfam board”.

“He has assured us that he has co-operated fully with the investigation in the confidence he did not knowingly transgress rules or procedures,” Ms Byanyima said.

 

Mr Fuentes is among 10 top former government officials to be arrested on Tuesday, including former President Álvaro Colom.

Álvaro ColomREUTERS
Álvaro Colom was president from 2008 until 2012

The ex-officials are being investigated in connection with a public bus system, which was developed during Mr Colom’s government between 2008 and 2012.

No details have been given of the charges those arrested may face.

The investigation is being led by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The commission is a United Nations body created in 2006 designed to strengthen the country’s rule of law.

Ex-leaders in the spotlight

Apart from Mr Colom, those arrested are the former ministers of finance, interior, education, defence, employment, economy, health, culture and the environment.

Attorney General Thelma Aldana said that her office was investigating the purchase by Álvaro Colom’s government of more than 3,000 buses in 2009.

Ms Aldana says that only 455 of the buses ever arrived in Guatemala.

Mr Colom is the second former president to be investigated over corruption by CICIG in the past months.

His successor in office, Otto Pérez Molina, who governed from 2012 to 2015, is due to stand trial for his alleged role in a huge corruption scheme involving Guatemala’s customs service.

CICIG also said current President Jimmy Morales should be investigated because of alleged funding irregularities in his 2015 election campaign.

In response, President Morales accused CICIG’s head of interference in Guatemala’s domestic affairs and ordered his deportation but the order was overturned by the country’s highest court.

BBC World News

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