Money From Contractors
An El Faro investigation revealed that a former confidant of President Alejandro Giammattei testified under oath that the Guatemalan leader negotiated a bribe of $2.6 million USD from construction firms to fund his 2019 campaign.
The protected witness testified last May that, in return, Giammattei promised multimillion-dollar infrastructure contracts to a ring of construction firms run by former Minister of Communications José Luis Benito. A second witness confirmed the existence of the agreement to El Faro.
Sources assert that the FBI and State Department also have copies of the explosive testimony. Read the full investigation here.
The sealed testimony was part of an investigation opened by the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) in October 2020 after finding nearly $16 million USD in cash tucked in suitcases in a house rented by Benito. The suitcases led prosecutors to file money laundering charges against him and to launch a criminal probe into the involvement of Giammattei’s former private secretary.
Attorney General Consuelo Porras —a key Giammattei ally up for reappointment as we speak— removed FECI chief Juan Francisco Sandoval last July, just two months after the testimony. Porras has also asked for the impeachment of Erika Aifán, the anti-mafia judge in custody of the testimony.
On the night he left Guatemala for exile, Sandoval told El Faro in an exclusive interview that one of the reasons for his removal was that the investigation into the suitcases of cash led back to Giammattei and to “payments from contractors in order to benefit from some infrastructure project or to finance some political campaign.” The implicated parties vehemently deny the witness’s assertions.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned to El Faro English for major updates on Guatemala’s justice system.
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