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Guatemala orders arrest of ex-ambassador to US in graft case

Guatemala orders arrest of ex-ambassador to US in graft case

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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan judge issued arrest warrants Friday for a former ambassador to the United States and another top ex-official in connection with a wide-ranging graft investigation.

A U.N. anti-corruption commission and Guatemalan prosecutors alleged that former Ambassador Julio Ligorria and former Communications Minister Alejandro Sinibaldi misused more than $10 million in government funds.

Ligorria and Sinibaldi had not been arrested and it was unknown if they had retained lawyers.

Prosecutors called the case "Construction and Corruption" and divided it into two parts.

In the first, they allege, Sinibaldi accepted kickbacks for public works contracts then moved them through front companies formed by his companies between 2011 and 2015. Some of the funds were allegedly laundered in neighboring Nicaragua.

Sinibaldi faces charges of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and illegal campaign financing.

In the second part, Ligorria used his influence to resolve litigation between phone companies in exchange for money paid through Sinibaldi's front companies, prosecutors allege.

They said that money was funneled back to the Patriot Party, which carried now jailed former President Otto Perez Molina to office.

Ligorria faces charges of illegal campaign financing.

Perez Molina resigned in 2015 amid revelations of a corruption and fraud network. He is in prison on trial and denies the accusations.

Authorities identified beach homes, ranches, yachts, helicopters and works of art that Sinibaldi allegedly obtained with the ill-gotten gains. Police raided 42 properties related to the investigation Friday.

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