Guatemala’s former Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla is facing yet another set of legal charges related to his time in office and for allegedly heading a network that falsified government acquisitions to embezzle police funds.
López Bonilla and 16 other individuals are accused of “forming a criminal structure that operated within the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC) to embezzle public funds that appeared to be invested in the acquisition of goods and services, in particular of patrol vehicles, and the contracting of works and services for substations,” according to a press release from the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), the United Nations-backed body that supports the Attorney General’s Office in corruption investigations.
Ten of the accused are current or former police officials who were assigned to units in charge of equipment acquisitions, financial audits and supplying the institution. This gives a sense of how well-organized and how deeply infiltrated within the PNC the network was. The remaining suspects are legal representatives of various Guatemalan companies.
The latest accusations constitute the second phase of the case. In June 2015, authorities had already captured 12 individuals, including the former subdirector of the PNC’s General Support and Logistics Directorate (Dirección General de Apoyo y Logísitica), as well as several other former chiefs and consultants of the instititution.
As for López Bonilla, the former minister is already under investigation for corruption and money laundering in two separate cases referred to as “La Cooperacha” and “Cooptación de Estado.” In addition, López Bonilla was indicted in US federal court in February on charges of conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine. He is currently incarcerated in Guatemala.
InSight Crime Analysis
The new accusation against López Bonilla is further proof of just how deeply organized crime has infiltrated Guatemala’s institutions. The former interior minister, who had also been in charge of the PNC and the country’s prison system, is considered to be the centerpiece of Guatemala’s mafia state.
During his time in office, López Bonilla subcontracted various aspects of the management of the Interior Ministry to people close to him. A government official told InSight Crime these contracts nearly led the ministry to bankruptcy.
The investigation of the “Cooperacha” case, which led to López Bonilla’s arrest, showed that the money obtained by the corruption networks of former minister and other officials was passed on to former President Otto Pérez Molina and former Vice President Roxanna Baldetti as “gifts.” Pérez Molina and Baldetti are also currently in prison.
Authorities working on the case stated that López Bonilla had given $98,000 to the private secretary of the former vice president to purchase luxury goods.
López Bonilla has also been accused of being linked with the underworld. A special investigation by InSight Crime showed that the former minister used state money to protect Marllory Chacón, whose name appeared on the US State Department’s Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker list.
On the other hand, Byron Lima, the former member of the military who managed to gain control of Guatemala’s prison system, said he been close to López Bonilla, and that the latter had helped him control the penitentiaries. The former minister has also been accused of receiving bribes by Jairo Orellana, a Guatemalan drug trafficker linked to the Zetas, in exchange for his security.