Guatemala judge orders detention of President Perez

A Guatemalan judge has issued a detention order for President Otto Perez, the attorney general´s office said on Wednesday, amid a graft scandal that has gutted his government and plunged Guatemala into chaos days before a presidential election.

Reuters| Updated: Sep 03, 2015, 11:04 AM IST

Guatemala City: A Guatemalan judge has issued a detention order for President Otto Perez, the attorney general´s office said on Wednesday, amid a graft scandal that has gutted his government and plunged Guatemala into chaos days before a presidential election.

Perez had his immunity from prosecution stripped by lawmakers on Tuesday in a fast-moving climax to a crisis that has roiled Guatemala for months. The 64-year-old retired general was elected on a ticket to combat crime and corruption.

Guatemala`s top prosecutor`s office tweeted late on Wednesday that Attorney General Thelma Aldana had sought an arrest order for Perez. It said charges included illicit association and customs fraud.

An official from Aldana´s office confirmed a judge had issued an order for Perez`s detention.

It was not immediately clear when Perez`s capture order would go into effect. However, Guatemala`s police are usually only able to implement such orders between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (1200 - 2400 GMT).

Prosecutors, who deemed Perez a flight risk, had barred him from leaving the country. However, Perez`s lawyer said earlier on Wednesday, before the detention order was issued, that he would not flee the country. 

Perez, who cannot run for re-election under the constitution and is supposed to remain in office until a handover in January, has denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly said he would not resign over the scandal.

Perez`s conservative administration has spent much of this year mired in public protests and scandals over corruption allegations against senior officials, several of whom he fired during a cabinet purge in May.

Prosecutors have said it is highly probable that Perez was involved in a customs racket dubbed "La Linea," or the line, due to a phone hotline used in the scandal, in which importers avoided paying customs duties in exchange for bribes.