Guatemala ex-VP Roxana Baldetti sentenced to 15 years in prison

Former Guatemala Vice President Roxana Baldetti has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for her involvement in a multi-million dollar fraud case.

The court found Baldetti, 56, guilty of being involved in the embezzlement of millions of dollars from a state fund in what has become known as the “Magic Water” scandal.

Baldetti “participated in and directed” the criminal network to “defraud the state of Guatemala,” said Judge Pablo Xitumul, delivering the sentence.

The fund was set up to clean a contaminated lake using state funds, but after the Israeli M Tarcic Engineering company was awarded the contract to clean the lake, millions of dollars were sent to shell companies and people involved with the scheme.

On top of that, the chemical used to decontaminate Lake Amatitlan was a useless mix of water, salt and chlorine which did not clean the lake.

According to one of the judges, Pablo Xitumul, Baldetti “issued instructions to place key people to execute the budget in favor of the criminal organization (and) facilitated the administrative and financial procedures for the company.” 

Nine others were also jailed in the “Magic Water” scandal, including Mario Baldetti, brother of the former vice-president.

Baldetti left office in 2015 after massive protests against her and President Otto Perez.

They were both jailed over corruption scandals, plunging the country into a political crisis.

Baldetti, who was vice president for three years, faces separate accusations of leading a network to defraud the state related to customs, alongside Perez, who is also awaiting trial.

She also faces corruption charges and an extradition request from the United States on drug trafficking charges. Baldetti has denied both charges.

After Perez was forced to step down, Jimmy Morales – a TV comedian with no political experience – was elected president after running for office on an anti-corruption ticket.

Morales himself is being investigated for suspected illegal campaign financing. However, he is currently protected by presidential immunity, after parliament in September voted against lifting it.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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