A court in Guatemala has decided to send 20 people involved in a corruption case into preventive detention, including the retired lieutenant colonel and ex-Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, who served between 2012 and 2015 during the Otto Perez Molina Administration.
According to an investigation by the Special Attorney Against Impunity (FECI) and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), all 20 persons are accused of forming a criminal structure that operated within the National Civil Police to divert public funds for their enrichment.
The accused pretended to buy goods and hire services with public funds, including the repair of police cars, and simulated contracts to remodel police stations.
But investigators found out that the goods and the services were never acquired. In some cases, there was only one receipt for the repair of three cars, the registered workshop didn't exist, or police stations were never actually remodeled.
Due to the nature of the fraud, it was dubbed “Police cars case.”
The accused include Byron Abelino Ambrosio Borrayo, Byron Estuardo Regalado España, Carlos Arnulfo Rodríguez Pérez, Dimas Antonio Secaida Morales, Francisco Manuel Baldizón Barquín, José Armando Hernández Valenzuela, Josué Augusto Alonzo Cantoral, Josué Lasdilao Estrada Zamora, María Carmen Chet Patzán, Nery Felipe García Galiano, Olga Beatriz González Fuentes, Óscar Haroldo García Quemé, Óscar Lisandro Martínez Contreras, Ricardo Enrique Flores Nájera, Rony Alfredo Monterroso Herrera, Sandra Isabel Monterroso Herrera, Sergio Estuardo Solórzano Guevara, Sonia Elizabeth Prado Sierra and Zoila Marina España Alvarado de Regalado, besides Lopez Bonilla.
The former minister, who has been arrested in 2015 for several corruption cases, was sent to trial in this case accused of embezzlement, fraud and illegal association for his alleged involvement in diverting US$1.63 million (12 million quetzals) from the police institution from 2012 to 2014.
To avoid publishing tenders to acquire goods and hire services, between 2012 and 2014 public officers purchased directly from seven companies used to get the funds and issuing receipts for no more than US$12,278, below the limit set by the Purchases Law. But these were just shell companies.
Lopez Bonilla is considered to be a security expert and has been an adviser for several electoral campaigns, including that of disgraced ex-President Otto Perez Molina and former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who was ousted after massive protests and corruption allegations in 2015. Before, he was also a member of the Council of Advisors of dictator Efrain Rios Montt (1982-1983), who became president of Guatemala after a coup.
He was arrested in 2015 for his involvement in another corruption case, dubbed “La Cooperacha” (The Cooperation) for which the ex-President Otto Perez Molina and ex-Vice President Roxana Baldetti, among others, are also on trial.
He's also being investigated for acquiring a video security system contract from the most expensive provider, for about US$357 million, 26 million above the average price.
Adding up several accusations against him, Lopez Bonilla is being charged for passive bribery, embezzlement, fraud, illicit association and money laundering.
Perez Molina was also involved in other corruption cases, such as “La Línea” (The Line), a customs fraud for which he's also being processed.