Guatemala congress launches probe of VP over graft scandal


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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's congress formed a commission Thursday to investigate Vice President Roxana Baldetti in connection with a customs corruption scandal.

By law, the five-lawmaker commission chosen by lottery has 60 days to make a recommendation on whether to revoke Baldetti's immunity from possible prosecution. However, congress called for the report to be fast-tracked for delivery May 14.

Guatemala has seen protests and growing demands for the resignation of the vice president, who denies any involvement and has said she does not intend to step down.

Prosecutors have not implicated her in the case, and President Otto Perez Molina has declined to ask for her resignation.

The congressional commission was formed a day after Guatemala's Supreme Court gave the green light for lawmakers to begin the process of possibly lifting Baldetti's immunity.

Baldetti filed an appeal of the ruling with the Constitutional Court on Thursday.

Several dozen officials and private citizens are suspected of involvement in the alleged bribery scheme, including Baldetti's former personal secretary, Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, the scheme's purported ringleader who is being sought by police.

Officials allegedly took bribes to lower duties levied on imports, defrauding the state out of revenue believed to be in the millions of dollars.

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