Fugitive’s Return Promises New Graft Revelations in Guatemala

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A Guatemala political operator accused of taking millions in bribes has surrendered after four years as a fugitive and is set to face a series of trials in which his testimonies could provide details on an array of corruption schemes.

Alejandro Sinibaldi, the former Minister of Infrastructure, Housing and Communications (Ministerio de Comunicaciones, Infraestructura y Vivienda – MICIVI), turned himself in to Guatemalan authorities on August 24 to face charges of illicit association, money laundering, and bribery. Sinibaldi served under jailed former President Otto Pérez Molina and was a presidential candidate in 2015.

Sinibaldi’s legal team contacted the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office around nine months ago, to begin coordinating his return from Italy, where the former minister had been evading justice since 2017. Eventually, he flew from Italy to the Netherlands, then on to Mexico, from where he was driven into Guatemala, according to Nómada.

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Sinibaldi is alleged to have links to five major corruption cases, including the landmark case dubbed “Cooptación del Estado” (Cooptation of the State), which revealed a multi-million dollar illicit campaign financing scheme that helped propel Pérez Molina to the presidency in 2011 elections. According to the investigations, Sinibaldi received $10 million in bribes from private construction companies in exchange for the companies receiving preferential treatment from his agency in project contracting and debt forgiveness.

According to a statement released by the Attorney General’s Office, Sinibaldi is also implicated in the Odebrecht corruption scandal, in which the Brazilian construction giant admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to secure government contracts in countries across Latin America.

The former minister is scheduled to appear in court August 27.

InSight Crime Analysis

As one of the most powerful and well-connected figures of the Pérez Molina administration, Sinibaldi could implicate a number of high-profile business and political elites in corruption schemes.

In a statement released August 24, Sinibaldi said that he decided to turn himself in in order to reveal the “entire truth about the state” and how “it has been co-opted by private interests from within its own structures.”

Given his alleged role as a key operator for Pérez Molina’s Patriotic Party (PP), the former minister could potentially provide extensive details on illicit campaign donors and state actors benefiting from bribery and kickback schemes operated by the PP, before and after the party came to power.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala Politics and the Patriotic Party’s Theory of ‘Eternal Return’

Sinibaldi also looks set to expose major players in the construction industry, who he says have accused him of extortion.

His comments are presumably a reference to the so-called “Construcción y Corrupción” (Construction and Corruption) case, in which Sinibaldi is accused of creating a network of companies used to charge illicit commissions to bodies contracted by MICIVI.

“The creators of the corrupt system with the Ministry of Communications are the constructors,” he told press gathered outside a courtroom after his arrival in Guatemala City, adding that politicians and ministers are simply opportunistic beneficiaries of the schemes.

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