Former Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom (2008-2012) was detained Tuesday along with nine alleged collaborators following a court order for his arrest. The president, his cabinet and executives of the Association of Urban Bus Companies are accused of fraud and graft in a case known as Transurbano.
Alberto Fuentes, former finance minister, and Salvador Gandara, former interior minister, were placed in pre-trial imprisonment. Fuentes, who has been Oxfam's president since 2015, is also linked to a prostitution scandal in Haiti and Chad.
Abraham Valenzuela, former defense minister, and Luis Alberto Ferrate, former environment minister, were taken to health centers under police custody. Other detained ministers include Ana del Rosario (education), Edgar Rodriguez (labor), Oscar Velasquez (economy), Celso Cerezo (health) and Geronimo Chingo (culture).
The Public Ministry and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known as Cicig, accused them of forming a criminal organization that took over US$36.7 million from the state coffers and transferred them to four private companies to run the public transportation system Transurbano, implemented by the National Unity of Hope government.
According to investigations, the corruption case was planned before Colom became president. More specifically, during the presidential election of 2007 when the association gave political contributions to all parties leading the polls, especially to Colom’s National Unity of Hope party.
Once in power, Colom’s government formed a Commission to Modernize Public Transport responsible for negotiating and implementing the new Transurbano system. According to the Attorney General, four companies were created to receive the resources allocated to the Transurbano. They were owned by the association’s president and vice president.
A month after the companies were created, they received roughly US$36 million of public money as an “investment financial contribution.”
The transfer was made without the required approval of Guatemala’s planning agency and of the state’s Attorney General.
As Colom arrived to the court, he told a Reuters reporter “for us, everything is legal, but let’s wait for what the judge says.”