GUATEMALA CITY – Two family members of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales – a brother and one of his sons – were detained on Wednesday over their alleged involvement in a corruption scheme centered on the RGP state procurement agency.
Attorney General Thelma Aldana said in an interview with a local television station that the president’s brother, Sammy Morales, was arrested for his purported role in a scheme that allegedly defrauded the RGP of more than 3 million quetzals (some $400,000), a case in which roughly a score of people had previously been arrested.
One of the president’s sons, Jose Manuel Morales Marroquin, who has been barred from leaving the country and was facing an arrest order, appeared in court voluntarily on Wednesday to clarify his situation.
Morales and Morales Marroquin had made statements to prosecutors in September after a witness had accused them of involvement in a scheme to misappropriate funds.
An investigation by Guatemala’s AG’s office and the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Cicig) found that between January 2012 and May 2015 a total of 16 fraudulent labor contracts were authorized, leading to more than 3 million quetzals being paid out by the RGP for work that was never performed.
As part of the alleged scheme, the Fulanos y Menganos restaurant was allegedly contracted to provide a banquet for some 524 people for 90,000 quetzals, but the event allegedly never occurred.
Fulanos y Menganos is the restaurant where Jimmy Morales launched his presidential candidacy in April 2015 and has given interviews to the media, according to Guatemalan media outlet Nomada.
The father of Morales Marroquin’s former girlfriend, Mario Estuardo Orellana Lopez, also was arrested Wednesday as part of the same corruption probe.
A former lawmaker for the conservative Patriotic Party, Anabella de Leon, who headed the RGP from 2012-2015, is suspected of heading up the corruption scheme.
She was arrested along with 17 others in September.
Guatemalan newspaper El Periodico on Wednesday published a story showing three invoices sent to the RGP that could show evidence of fraud.
One of the invoices – dated Dec. 2, 2013 and in the amount of 90,000 quetzals – was issued by Fulanos y Menganos for the banquet, while the other two were issued by a company known as Plus Espectaculos y Promociones, whose legal representative is Sammy Morales.
One of those latter invoices – dated Dec. 5, 2013, and in the amount of 89,975 quetzals – was for catering service, while the other – dated Dec. 4, 2013, and in the amount of 89,958 quetzals – was for Christmas holiday food baskets.
El Periodico said that when it tried to contact Plus Espectaculos y Promociones it was told that that company does not provide food services but only does advertising-related work.
In September, Orellana Lopez’s wife, Abdy Susselly Estrada Garcia, told prosecutors that she agreed to a request from a procurement official at the RGP to supply 585 Christmas food baskets, the Prensa Libre daily reported then.
She said that because she did not have invoices she and her husband enlisted the help of Morales Marroquin, who obtained them with assistance from his uncle, Sammy Morales.
President Jimmy Morales on Wednesday expressed his “total support” for his son and brother.
“Total support as a family,” the head of state told reporters in the southwestern province of Retalhuleu, where he was inaugurating a public school.
But the former comic actor, whose anti-corruption campaign had the slogan “Neither Corrupt Nor a Thief,” added that his respect for the law as president of Guatemala also was “total.”