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Former Guatemalan President to Be Tried on Fraud Charges

  • VOA News

FILE - Otto Perez Molina arrives at the Guatemalan army general headquarters in Guatemala City, June 30, 2015.

FILE - Otto Perez Molina arrives at the Guatemalan army general headquarters in Guatemala City, June 30, 2015.

A Guatemalan judge has ordered former President Otto Perez Molina to stand trial on corruption charges, days after he resigned over a customs fraud scandal that has stoked outrage in the Central American country.

Judge Miguel Angel Galvez ordered the former president held, saying there was enough evidence to link him to a scam known as "La Linea,'' or "The Line,'' in which business people paid bribes to avoid import duties through Guatemala's customs agency.

On Friday, Perez Molina denied accusations that he accepted $800,000 from business owners.

The former president said in court Friday that he accepted no bribes and bragged that he had been offered — and refused — 10 times that amount from fugitive drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman when the Mexican drug kingpin was captured in 1993.

Perez Molina's former vice president, Roxana Baldetti, already has been jailed and faces charges.

The scheme, uncovered last year by prosecutors and a U.N. commission known as CICIG, which is investigating criminal networks in the country, is believed to have defrauded the state of millions.

On Sunday, Guatemala held general elections in a climate of widespread disgust with politics.

Comedian and political novice Jimmy Morales won the race, but fell well short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. He will face either former first lady Sandra Torres or millionaire businessman Manuel Baldizon in a second-round vote October 25.

Vice President Alejandro Maldonado will serve out the remainder of Perez's term, which ends January 14.

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