A Guatemalan court on Wednesday sentenced former president Otto Perez and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, to 16 years each in prison over corruption scandals that sent the two men out of office early.
The couple was found guilty of unlawful association and customs fraud, but acquitted of illicit enrichment.
Perez, who was president of Guatemala from 2012 to 2015, has spent the last seven years in prison awaiting sentencing in the case. Baldetti was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison in a separate fraud case in 2018.
Peres, a 72-year-old retired general who took office on a promise to fight crime, was forced to resign with just four months left in office amid protests over corruption scandals.
“All that’s left is to appeal,” Peres told reporters during a break in the proceedings, adding that he felt “cheated” because the charge was handed down “without a shred of evidence.”
Perez and Baldetti were accused of running a customs fraud ring that stole $3.5 million in government funds during their tenure, and both Perez and Baldetti were accused by investigators of taking large cuts.
Investigators accused the two of running a scheme that bribed importers to avoid paying customs duties. More than twenty other people have been charged in this case.
On Wednesday, Perez was ordered to pay $1.10 million and Baldetti was ordered to pay $1.06 million.
The case, known as La Linea, was initially investigated under the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
Guatemala expelled Colombian Ivan Velázquez, head of the CICIG, in 2018 after repeated attempts to investigate then-President Jimmy Morales and the jailing of dozens of politicians and businessmen.
The following year, Morales allowed the mandate authorizing CICIG to expire and suspended the commission. In 2021, Guatemalan investigators began targeting judges, prosecutors, and journalists for collaborating with CICIG, forcing many into exile.
Since then, several of those involved in corruption cases investigated by CICIG have been released and CICIG’s findings have been overturned. This year, Velázquez became Colombia’s Minister of Defense.