The brother of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was arrested early Tuesday morning over his suspected links to a corruption case. A Guatemalan court also issued an arrest warrant for the president's son, Jose Manuel Morales Marroquin, who could not be arrested at the presidential residence for legal reasons.
Samuel Morales, known as Sammy, is accused of being involved in a fraud operation that siphoned off some US$400,000 from the country’s Property Registry. At least 20 other suspects are also linked to the case, including President Morales’ son, Jose Manuel.
Sammy testified in the case last September saying that he did a “favor” for his nephew, Jose Manuel, by requesting a fake receipt from a restaurant falsifying payment for 564 breakfasts — valued at some US$19,000 — for the Property Registry that were never served.
According to police, Sammy was taken into custody in Mixco, a municipality in the metropolitan area of Guatemala City.
Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana confirmed the arrest. In an interview with Guatevision, Aldana expressed concern over suspects in the case being so close to the president, recalling the Central American country’s recent troubled history with high-level government corruption.
“I hope that Guatemala never again comes to have a case in which the president of the republic is involved,” she said.
Guatemalan authorities, together with the U.N.-backed anti-impunity body known as CICIG, uncovered a string of massive corruption cases in the country’s highest offices in the spring of 2015, sparking months of popular protests demanding the resignation of then-President Otto Perez Molina, who was at the center of a major fraud scandal.
Perez Molina gave in to social movement pressure and resigned on Sept. 3, 2015, after Congress stripped him of immunity, months after his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, also stepped down over corruption allegations. Perez Molina faces charges for millions of dollars in customs fraud, racketeering and bribery.
Perez Molina was Guatemala’s first head of state to stand accused while still in his post as president. He stepped down just weeks before the presidential election, which Jimmy Morales won.
Morales, a former TV comedian without a background in politics, capitalized on widespread outrage over government corruption during his presidential campaign, painting himself as a political outsider to propel his candidacy. Running under the slogan, "Ni Corrupto, Ni Ladron (Not Corrupt, Not a Thief)," Morales was elected president in October 2015 in a landslide victory over former first lady Sandra Torres.