Oxfam International chairman arrested in Guatemala


Feb. 13 (UPI) — Authorities arrested the chairman of Oxfam International in Guatemala on Tuesday after a corruption investigation related to his time as a Guatemalan government official.

Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, the finance minister for Guatemala between 2008 and 2012, was arrested in an early-morning raid after a fraud investigation into Guatemala City’s bus system. Also arrested was former Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom and eight of his former Cabinet members

None of the people arrested has been formally charged with a crime.

Fuentes’ arrest comes at the same time other Oxfam officials are accused of hiring prostitutes in Haiti in 2011 while they were in the country to assist with earthquake relief.

Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre reported the investigation into Knight surrounds corruption involving the renovation of Guatemala City’s modern bus system, including how permits were awarded to private companies, unused equipment, the purchase of buses from Brazil and other examples of alleged graft.

In a statement, Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana said the case is a review of events dating back to December 2008, when the government under Colom decided to renovate Guatemala City’s bus system to implement a prepaid system in the capital city.

“The investigation reconstructs and examines the fraudulent legal mechanisms used by public and private officials to take $35 million from the state of Guatemala,” Aldana said.

Colom has denied any wrongdoing.

“For us, everything was legal,” Colom said, according to The New York Times. “I am sure there will be nothing at the end.”

The Guatemalan bus system fraud investigation is unrelated to Fuentes’ work as the chairman of Oxfam International. Winnie Byanyima, the charity’s executive director, told the BBC that Fuentes had been “entirely open with his Oxfam board.”

“He has assured us that he has cooperated fully with the investigation in the confidence he did not knowingly transgress rules or procedures,” Byanyima said.