Ex-Guatemalan President and Oxfam Official to Face Trial

Published: 05 March 2018

Álvaro Colom Caballeros - World Economic Forum on Latin America 2010Álvaro Colom Caballeros (Source: World Economic Forum, CC BY 2.0)

By Katarina Sabados

The two former members of Guatemalan government will face trial on charges of embezzlement and fraud, following their February arrest, the Public Prosecutor’s office announced Thursday.

Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, chairman of the charity OXFAM, and former president Alvaro Colom were arrested in February following an investigation by the country’s anti-corruption body, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

The investigation found that a US$35million contract for public buses during Colom’s presidency was inflated, and that the funds from that contract were improperly spent, effectively defrauding the Guatemalan state. Fuentes was Colom’s finance minister at the time.

Eleven other former cabinet ministers face corruption charges. 

The charges come at a particularly bad time for Oxfam, which is facing widespread backlash for allegations of sexual abuse by aid workers on missions in Haiti. 

Fuentes has since stepped down from his post as chairman of Oxfam.

Judge Jose Eduardo Cojulum set bail for Fuentes at US$68,000, and deemed Colom a flight risk, placing him in preventative detention until the trial along with four others accused. 

Both Colom and Fuentes have denied any wrongdoing. 

The probe into high-level corruption is a joint effort by the Guatemalan public prosecutor’s office and the CICIG. It has implicated dozens of officials, including the current president Jimmy Morales.