Guatemalan vice president resigns amid corruption scandal

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Guatemala’s vice-president has resigned amid a customs corruption scandal that implicated her former private secretary and opened her up to an investigation.

A sombre president Perez Molina said Roxana Baldetti had abandoned her offices the presidential palace and he was informing congress. He called the decision “brave” and thanked her for her service.

“Her resignation is due to a personal decision the only interest being to leave her office voluntarily, to submit herself to and co-operate whatever investigations may be necessary and above all within the due process,” Molina said.

Baldetti is the first Guatemalan vice-president to step down due to a corruption case, although prosecutors have not implicated her the scandal and she denies involvement.

She had earlier lost a constitutional court appeal seeking to overturn a ruling that allowed congress to begin an investigation into whether to strip her of the prosecutorial immunity that comes office.

Recent days had seen calls for Baldetti’s resignation by protesters and influential business leaders.

After the announcement, hundreds celebrated the streets of the capital cheers, applause, firecrackers and honking car horns.

“Roxana’s resignation is a victory for the people!” jubilant protesters chanted.

Molina said he would send three names to congress for a vice-president to be picked from.

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Baldetti’s one-time aide, Juan Carlos Monzon Rojas, is alleged to have been the ringleader of a customs scheme in which officials defrauded the state of millions of dollars by taking bribes to lower customs duties. Monzon’s last known whereabouts were overseas, and he is currently being sought by authorities.

At least 50 private citizens and public servants, including Guatemala’s current and former tax chiefs, are suspects in the customs scandal. Prosecutors said 27 are in .

Earlier Friday, authorities arrested five who allegedly bribed a judge to free suspects jailed in connection with the case.

Prosecutors and a UN investigative commission said the attorneys paid judge Marta Stalling to release the three suspects bail.

Authorities revoked bail and were seeking to lift Stalling’s judicial immunity in order to launch an investigation.