• Costa Rica Real Estate

Guatemala ‘La Línea’ ringleader turns himself in, accuses ex-president of directing fraud scheme

October 5, 2015

GUATEMALA CITY – After being on the run for six months, one of the top leaders of a massive customs fraud scheme that brought down Guatemala’s president, vice president and dozens of others has finally turned himself in.

Juan Carlos Monzón, the ex-private secretary of Guatemala’s former Vice President Roxanna Baldetti, surrendered to Guatemalan authorities on Monday. In the process, he named former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina – currently in preventive prison – as the ringleader of the million-dollar fraud operation known as “La Línea.”

Juan Carlos Monzón’s statements follow similar comments made last week to investigators by another La Línea defendant, Salvador Estuardo González, alias “Eco,” that Pérez Molina and Baldetti were key players in the massive fraud operation, which hit headlines back in April.

During a hearing last week, González said Pérez Molina and Baldetti received half of the bribes collected from the operation, which allegedly diverted millions of dollars in customs duties into private hands.

“I recognize that Estuardo [González] told the truth during his declaration before the judge,” Monzón, dressed in a dark blue suit, gray shirt and light blue tie, told presiding Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez on Monday.

Monzón offered more information in exchange for government protection, saying he feared for his life and for his family.

“I’m the link that prosecutors need to close this investigation,” Monzón said, while denying he was La Línea’s mastermind as has been alleged by prosecutors and the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

Under the administration of Pérez Molina, who resigned under widespread public pressure in September, and Baldetti, who stepped down last May, “nothing was done without the knowledge and approval of both of them,” Monzón said.

According to Gabriel Wer, a member of “Justicia Ya,” one of the groups that led collective anti-corruption protests for months, “The position of Otto Pérez and Roxanna Baldetti in this case is further complicated, because it’s being proven that the two highest leaders in the country ran the criminal structure.”

See also: Guatemala’s former President Pérez Molina to stand trial Dec. 21; until then, jail

Pérez Molina and Baldetti currently are being held in preventive prison, but Baldetti was transferred in September to a military hospital, citing health problems.

Before Juan Carlos Monzón’s testimony, prosecutor Antonio Morales said the organized crime network “was operationally directed by you, Juan Carlos Monzón Rojas, and directed by Otto Fernando Pérez Molina and Ingrid Roxana Baldetti Elías.”

Morales then played several recordings of telephone conversations entered as evidence against Monzón, who asked for “forgiveness from the Guatemalan pueblo,” as well as from his friends and family “for having participated in this structure, which was simply following orders that had been given to me.”

Monzón’s defense attorney is Francisco García Gudiel, who also defended Guatemala’s former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on genocide charges.

During testimony last week, González said, “Fifty percent of the bribes were for No. 1 and No. 2, … and I was the one who identified the president and vice president as 1 and 2 in order to distribute the money.”

Monzón disappeared the same day that the La Línea case was made public in April, while accompanying Baldetti on a trip to South Korea. He has not yet stated publicly if he had left the country or was in hiding in Guatemala.

He faces charges of illicit association, customs fraud and bribery.

Read all our coverage of the La Línea scandal here

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

Google recognizes Independence Day with Costa Rican flag
Independence Day
1691 views
Independence Day
1691 views

Google recognizes Independence Day with Costa Rican flag

The Tico Times - September 15, 2019

The search engine giant is recognizing Costa Rica with a Google doodle honoring today's holiday. Today, in honor of Independence…

Costa Rica celebrates Independence Day
Costa Rica
28 views
Costa Rica
28 views

Costa Rica celebrates Independence Day

The Tico Times - September 15, 2019

Happy Independence Day from all of us at The Tico Times! Today, Costa Rica celebrates 198 years of independence. It's…

Watch: Keylor Navas makes big save, posts clean sheet in PSG debut
Keylor Navas
140 views
Keylor Navas
140 views

Watch: Keylor Navas makes big save, posts clean sheet in PSG debut

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 14, 2019

Keylor Navas posted a clean sheet as part of an impressive debut with PSG on Saturday. The Costa Rican goalkeeper…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!