Guatemalan President blocked by Courts from expelling UN-backed Anti-Corruption Prosecutor

By: Karina Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala On Sunday, August 27, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales ordered the expulsion from Guatemala of Ivan Velasquez, the Colombian prosecutor heading the UN supported anti-corruption panel CICIG.  Mr. Velasquez had requested that Guatemala’s Congress remove President Morales’ presidential immunity to investigation two days prior.

Guatemala’s Congress will make the decision on whether or not to revoke President Morales’ immunity to CICIG’s investigation. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times.

President Morales’ expulsion order was temporarily stopped by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court, in response to which the President protested that the court was infringing on his authority over foreign affairs. On Monday, September 4, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Velasquez’s request to remove President Morales’ immunity should be considered by Guatemala’s Congress.

Within the next few days, Guatemala’s Congress will form a small committee to examine the case and present their findings to the rest of Congress.  Two-thirds of the deputies in Congress would then have to vote in favor to remove presidential immunity. As reported by Al Jazeera, many of these deputies are also under investigation by CICIG.

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) is a UN-backed organization that has been operating in Guatemala since 2007.  CICIG was begun to combat the widespread governmental and criminal collusion that flourished in Guatemala after 36 years of civil war.  Ivan Velasquez led the CICIG in an investigation that resulted in the resignation and arrest of Guatemala’s previous president, Otto Pérez Molina, in 2015 on corruption charges.

President Morales has been under investigation for allegations of corruption stemming from over $800,000 of undisclosed funds received by his political party, the National Convergence Front, during his 2015 presidential campaign.  According to Reuters, President Morales’ son and brother are currently under CICIG investigation for fraudulent behavior.

In a statement to the Guardian, Anabella Sibrain, director of NGO International Platform against Impunity stated: “What we’ve seen today is an arbitrary act against internationally backed anti-corruption figureheads, but it is also a strong message to the country’s increasingly robust social movements that they could be next.”

Supporters of President Morales claim that CICIG is an example of United Nations interference in a sovereign nation’s judicial processes and a gross overreach.

 For more information, please see:

Brookings – What Guatemala’s political crisis means for anti-corruption efforts everywhere – 7 September 2017

AlJazeera – Guatemala congress to weigh lifting Morales’ immunity – 4 September 2017

Reuters – Guatemalan president may be investigated in campaign finance case – 4 September 2017

AlJazeera – Guatemala top court sides with UN anti-corruption unit – 29 August 2017

The New York Times – Showdown in Guatemala Over Investigation of President – 28 August 2017

The Guardian – Crisis flares in Guatemala over corruption and organized crime – 27 August 2017

Government Officials Steal $4 Billion from South Sudan

By Tara Pistorese
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, South Sudan—South Sudan President Salva Kiir has accused past and present government officials of stealing $4 billion in public funds from South Sudan. The alleged corruption follows less than one year after the nation seceded from Sudan.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir speaks to the media on the first day of voting for South Sudan independence. (Photo Courtesy of Zimbia)

The Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army were locked in battle from 1983-2005. The civil war claimed approximately two million lives—the highest civilian death toll since World War II.

In July, South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, split from the North and claimed 75 percent of the region’s oil. To this day, South Sudan is still battling with Khartoum over oil revenues, crude transit fees and border delineation.

South Sudan filed a complaint with the U.N. Security Council on Friday against Khartoum for repeated airstrikes against South Sudan border states. Khartoum, however, denies the accusations.

In January, South Sudan shut down the vast majority of its oil output to stilt Sudan’s ability to seize the oil in lieu of what Sudan called unpaid export fees. At that point, oil production formed 98 percent of the South Sudan’s revenue.

According to South Sudan’s Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, more than half of the stolen funds were taken during the “durra” scandal, when a large government purchase of sorghum, the country’s staple food, was never distributed.

The 8.6 million people in South Sudan suffer some of the most devastating education and health statistics in the world. Similarly, just last month, the World Bank expressed its “deep concern” for Juba’s economy.

“We fought for freedom, justice and equality. Many of our friends died to achieve these objectives. Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people,” reads a letter written on May 3 by President Kiir.

The letter, which was verified by Minister Benjamin on Monday, was addressed to 75 former and current government officials and asked for the return of all or a portion of the stolen funds in return for amnesty. “The credibility of our government is on the line,” President Kiir pleads.

Although it is unclear exactly when the money was taken, President Kiir believes it has “been taken out of the country and deposited in foreign accounts,” or that the funds were used to make cash property purchases.

President Kiir has reached out to leaders of eight other nations in regions of Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and Africa, for help recovering the missing funds.

 

For further information, please see:

Chicago Tribute—South Sudan Officials Have Stolen $4 Billion-President—4 June 2012

CTV News—S. Sudan President Asks Officials to Return Stolen Funds—4 June 2012

Expatica Switzerland—Sudanese Refuge Spike to South Worries U.N.—4 June 2012

Modern Ghana—Corrupt South Sudan Officials Have Stolen $4 Billion: Kiir—4 June 2012

Reuters-Africa—Sudan, South Sudan Start First Security Talks Since Border Clash—4 June 2012