GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Two senior Guatemalan cabinet ministers were arrested Saturday on corruption charges and authorities said they were seeking to detain three more as part of a continuing crackdown that has already seen a former president jailed.
Both former officials served under ex-President Otto Perez Molina, who faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy. He denies wrongdoing.
Chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana said that former Defense Minister Gen. Manuel Lopez Ambrosio and Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla were part of a group that used about $4.3 million in state funds to buy gifts, including houses, boats and a helicopter, for Perez Molina. They face charges of money laundering and conspiracy.
Perez Molina’s former Vice President Roxana Baldetti also is jailed on corruption charges, and also denies wrongdoing.
Aldana said a group of officials organized a collection each year to buy gifts for the president on his birthday.
Aldana said the money was handled by Juan Carlos Monzon, then secretary to Baldetti. Monzon has been collaborating with prosecutors investigating the case.
Interior Minister Francisco Rivas said authorities also have sought international arrest orders for former Energy Minister Erick Archila and former Communications Minister Alejandro Sinibaldi.
He said officials are also seeking to arrest another former defense minister, Ulises Anzueto.
Arriving at court offices, Lopez Bonilla said he did not know why he’d been detained, but expressed confidence in the country’s judicial system.
“I believe that at the end of the day, things will be cleared up. I can’t say more than that I am proud of the work I did,” he said.
About 2,000 people gathered for a demonstration in the center of Guatemala City on Saturday to support the prosecutors and the crackdown on corruption.