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Latino Daily News

Tuesday June 19, 2012

Guatemalan Officer Embezzles $30 M in Public Funds

Guatemalan Officer Embezzles $30 M in Public Funds

Photo: Guatemala

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A finance chief of the Guatemalan army’s now-defunct presidential guard unit during the 2000-2004 administration of Alfonso Portillo was arrested here Monday on charges he embezzled more than $30 million in public funds.

Retired Lt. Col. Saul Mendez was detained in a residential neighborhood pursuant to a May 2005 warrant, a police spokesman said.

Prosecutors say Mendez, 50, was the ringleader of a group of officers who bilked the treasury out of 242 million quetzales ($30 million) by submitting invoices for non-existent transactions.

Four other military officers are in custody in connection with the case.

The presidential guard unit, which was responsible both for protecting the head of state and managing the finances of the president’s office, was abolished under Portillo in favor of a new Department of Administrative Affairs and Security.

Portillo himself was accused of running a criminal scheme to divert more than 2.5 billion quetzales ($312 million), but he and two of his erstwhile to aides were acquitted of corruption charges in May 2011.

The former president remains behind bars, however, as he awaits likely extradition to the United States to face money laundering charges.