Ex-Guatemalan VP gets 15 years for ‘magic water’ scheme

A Guatemalan court has sentenced former Vice President Roxana Baldetti to 15 and-a-half years in prison for a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.

Former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti was sentenced Tuesday to more than 15 years in prison over a fraudulent scheme involving an environmental cleanup at a lake. File Photo by Esteban Biba/EPA
Former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti was sentenced Tuesday to more than 15 years in prison over a fraudulent scheme involving an environmental cleanup at a lake. File Photo by Esteban Biba/EPA

The court also sentenced nine others Tuesday in connection with the plot.
Prosecutors with the International Commission Against Impunity found Baldetti ran a criminal network that conspired to give an $18 million government contract to an Israeli company for a “magic water” product to clean up Lake Amatitlan in Guatemala.

The product was a mix of saltwater and chlorine that wasn’t effective at decontaminating the water, prosecutors said.

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Baldetti’s sentence includes eight years for illicit association, five years for fraud and 30 months for influence peddling, the commission said.

Among the nine others sentenced is Baldetti’s brother Mario, who coordinated and facilitated the contract given to M. Tarcic Engineering for the lake cleanup. He was given 11 years. Other included people involved with state institutions in the environmental field and company representatives. Their sentences ranged from three to 13 years.

Baldetti was forced to resign in 2015 after a separate corruption investigation brought down the government of President Otto Perez Meline, who’s in jail awaiting trial. She also faces other charges and an extradition request from the United States on drug trafficking charges, which she has denied.

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Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, elected in 2015, faces his own charges of illegal campaign financing and fraud and has decided to end the anti-corruption commission’s mandate next September.

Commission chief Ivan Velasquez, who Morales blocked from re-entering Guatemala, applauded the sentences.

BySommer Brokaw