Guatemala prison chief arrested in corruption probe

The head of Guatemala`s prison system was arrested Wednesday on bribery and money-laundering charges linked to a notorious jail-based criminal syndicate, prosecutors said.

Edgar Camargo, director of the Guatemalan Penitentiary System, was detained over allegations of a conspiracy with a gang headed by jailed Army captain Byron Lima Oliva.

Prosecutor Thelma Aldana said investigators had uncovered evidence linking prison system officials to "illicit" practices.

Camargo was arrested on charges of conspiracy, bribery and conspiracy to launder money.

Lima Oliva, who was jailed for 20 years in 2001 for his involvement in the murder of Guatemalan bishop Juan Gerardi in April 1998, had emerged as one of the most powerful figures inside Guatemala`s prison system, investigators had found.

Aldana said the investigation into the prison system had been carried out in concert with the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

The head of the CICIG, former Colombian judge Ivan Velasquez, said investigators had found that the Guatemalan prison system was effectively run by inmates and criminal gangs.

"It is a real criminal network, composed of inmates, individuals and government officials," Velasquez said.

Lima Oliva was "central" to the conspiracy he added, controlling aspects of prison life such as arranging inmate transfers, conjugal visits and access to phones.

While in prison, Lima Oliva had even been able to purchase several properties in upmarket areas of the capital as well as luxury cars made by Jaguar, BMW or Porsche.

Six other people were arrested along with Camargo, including Alejandra Reyes, the wife of Lima Oliva.

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