Discovery of Judicial Corruption Network Brings Hope for Overdue Reforms

by Jason Mann, GHRC Summer 2015 Intern

Captured lawyer Jose Arturo Morales. Photo: Insight Crime.

Captured lawyer Jose Arturo Morales. Photo: Insight Crime.

After the investigation into a web of judicial corruption, nicknamed the “Law Firm of Impunity,” Guatemala’s failed judicial system may be headed for long-needed reforms.

Revelations began in April 2015 when the UN-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) uncovered a massive tax fraud scheme involving numerous high-level government officials.

Among those directly incriminated in the corruption ring, dubbed “La Linea,” were the head of Guatemala’s customs enforcement and tax agency and the private secretary of Vice President Roxana Baldetti, Juan Carlos Monzón, who led the operation.

The scandal, one of the biggest in recent memory in Guatemala, barely had time to sink in, before a related scandal broke, prompted by judges who had suspiciously granted bail to the high level officials arrested. Corruption, it became clear, was being facilitated by those charged with upholding the law.

On May 8, the same day that Baldetti was forced to resign as vice president, the CICIG released phone recordings of wiretapped conversations between a ringleader of La Linea, Javier Ortiz, and businessman Luis Mendizábal. The conversation describes how Ortiz’s lawyers had bribed Judge Marta Josefina Sierra de Stalling to obtain reduced bail and a favorable house arrest sentence in exchange for a financial kickback. Continue reading