GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemala’s Supreme Court authorized on Monday the start of a process that could lead to prosecution of President Jimmy Morales on charges he accepted illegal campaign contributions.
During a special closed session, the judges agreed that there were “sufficient elements” to consider the motion submitted Aug. 25 by the Attorney General’s Office and the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), court spokesman Angel Pineda said.
The case file will be sent to Congress, which has the final say on whether or not to lift the president’s immunity from prosecution.
The campaign finance accusations were first presented at a joint press conference where Attorney General Thelma Aldana was joined by CICIG chair Ivan Velasquez.
Morales, in his capacity as legal representative of his party, “impeded the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the citizenry from learning the identity of the financers who contributed to his campaign,” Velasquez said.
The evidence indicates that the president’s FCN-Nacion party broke the law by accepting anonymous contributions and then failing to report them, the CICIG chief said.
Aldana pointed out that when electoral officials sought to audit FCN-Nacion, the party effectively refused to cooperate.
While allowing the campaign probe to go forward, the Supreme Court rejected two motions by private citizens seeking to have Morales’ immunity revoked for his attempt to declare CICIG’s Velasquez persona non grata and expel him from Guatemala.
Another tribunal, the Constitutional Court, stopped the president from expelling Velasquez.
CICIG was created in 2007 to help Guatemala’s criminal justice system in what was until then a decidedly uphill battle against organized crime, corruption and impunity.
The UN-backed commission has investigated corruption cases involving about 300 people, including former officials, businessmen, politicians, members of Congress and mayors, among others, playing a significant role in the ouster of Morales’ predecessor, Otto Perez Molina.