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UN Ready to Continue Anti-crime Commission in Guatemala

A man holds up a sign that reads in Spanish: "CICIG yes" in reference to the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity, or CICIG, during a protest against Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina in Guatemala City, April 20, 2015.

The United Nations is ready to continue working with Guatemala through a commission that has been investigating criminal networks in the Central American nation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, the U.N. chief's office said the involvement of the U.N. International Commission Against Impunity, or CICIG for its initials in Spanish, has been renewed three times and the world body would respond "favorably" to a request for another extension.

"We are ready to continue supporting Guatemala," the statement said. "From the contacts we have had with CICIG's donors, we understand that they are also ready to continue funding the commission's work."

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina is expected to announce a decision on a two-year renewal of the commission's work by the end of the month.

He has not given any indication as to what his decision will be, but recently suggested that CICIG cannot be a permanent fixture and ultimately it will be up to Guatemala to tackle powerful criminal organizations that often have tendrils reaching into government and the judicial system.

Last week authorities announced a series of raids and arrests related to an alleged customs corruption scheme believed to have bilked the state of millions of dollars.

The current and former chiefs of Guatemala's Tax Authority were implicated in the probe, as well as Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, the former private secretary to Guatemala's vice president and purported ringleader of the scheme.

Monzon, 47, was said to be outside the country when the arrests were announced, and on Monday authorities said he was being sought by Interpol for suspected fraud.

Ban's office cited the customs investigation as an example of the commission's "excellent job investigating criminal networks with ties to government structures."

"Through its work, CICIG is helping prevent Guatemalan citizens from being defrauded of funds that rightfully should be used for their benefit and not funneled into corrupt criminal networks," the statement said.

Those who oppose the commission remaining say it has exceeded its mandate and infringes on Guatemala's sovereignty.

Backers say Guatemala has a long-entrenched problem with corruption, and local law enforcement is not ready to take over complicated criminal investigations that can reach high levels of government.