‘Bishop’s Killer Ran Prison Bribery Ring in Guatemala’

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The former army captain convicted of killing Bishop Juan Gerardi ran a massive bribery ring from prison, according to an investigation by Guatemala’s anti-impunity commission. 

Byron Lima, the former army captain convicted of murdering human rights activist Bishop Juan Gerardi, is accused of securing favors for other inmates in exchange for thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes. Besides charging Lima with money laundering and organized crime, Guatemalan authorities arrested Lima’s wife, the current national director of prison services, and the ex-assistant director of prisons. Prosecutors said that up to 12 other people have been implicated, as the Associated Press reports

Lima allegedly formed part of a ring that organized special favors for inmates, such as cell phones, conjugal visits, and transfers to other prison facilities. The national prison system director received a cut of the money in exchange for approving the transfers. 

Lima has previously been accused of enjoying “VIP” treatment while in prison. He allegedly amassed a small fortune from this bribery ring, including luxury properties and vehicles.

InSight Crime Analysis

Since 2001, Lima has been serving a 20-year prison sentence for the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi, who was bludgeoned to death in 1998 just two days after publishing a report detailing army atrocities. The murder was seen as a traumatic setback for those seeking justice for military crimes in the country. 

Lima’s father and another former military officer were also convicted of Gerardi’s murder, in a historic trial that produced the first convictions of high-level army officials in a non-military tribunal since a 1996 ruling made this possible.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Given Lima’s profile, the dismantling of his bribery ring represents an important late-term victory for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations body active in Guatemala since 2007. The CICIG has had some success, cutting impunity rates by 23 percent in six years, but its mandate is set to expire in September 2015. 

The case also highlights the depth of the corruption present in the Guatemalan prison system, similarly to other penitentiary systems throughout Latin America. While Lima’s celebrity-like status will likely draw significant outcry in Guatemala, extortion schemes facilitated by corrupt prison officials are common throughout the region.

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