Thirteen people, including the former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti’s brother and former officials of the vice presidency, were arrested last Tuesday for alleged fraud. The charges involved a contract with an Israeli company, Tarcic Engineering, in exchange for the supposed purification of the Amatitlán Lake in 2014.
Baldetti and her brother are accused of leading the organization of a plan to commit fraud by obtaining a liquid chemical from Tarcic Engineering that would supposedly cleanse the polluted Amatitlán Lake. In December 2014, the Guatemalan National Treasury paid the Israeli company 22.8 million quetzals, the equivalent to USD $2.97 million, for the ‘‘magical formula’’ that would expurgate the contaminated waters.
The chemical sold by Tarcic faced criticism after both the company and the Israeli government repeatedly refused to confirm its ingredients or explain how the chemical worked, citing supposed patent rights. A study by the Ministry of Health concluded that the acquired formula was 98% saline water and could be potentially damaging to the lake. Baldetti approved the contract, and the Guatemalan government and Tarcic Engineering drafted it for a total of 137.8 million quetzals, or 17.9 U.S. dollars.
The Public Ministry of Guatemala is conducting the investigation of the Amatitlán lake incident, working alongside the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The organization, supported by the United Nations, held a key role in the investigation of the 2015 corruption scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of former president Otto Perez. The accused, including former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, are being held at a provisional prison while the investigation is carried out, and Guatemala awaits the verdict on yet another political fraud allegation.