Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala ex-VP Baldetti accused of taking bribes

Guatemala's former Vice-President Roxana Baldetti attends a court hearing on corruption charges Image copyright AP
Image caption Ms Baldetti, who resigned in May, says she is innocent

A former vice-president of Guatemala has appeared in court accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes in a scandal that has rocked the government.

Prosecutors said Roxana Baldetti took a 50% cut of illegal payments channelled to officials helping businesses evade customs duties.

She was arrested last week over the scheme and denies wrongdoing.

Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina has apologised but said he would not resign over the matter.

Addressing the nation on Sunday, he rejected any link to the scandal and said his conscience was clear.

Eight members of his government have resigned over the allegations and nearly 30 people detained.

In court, Ms Baldetti - who resigned in May - spoke to confirm her identity, taking notes as prosecutors played some of the wiretapped conversations that led to her detention.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Protestors have called on President Perez Molina to resign

The bribery scam has become known as "La Linea", or "The Line", after the hotline businesses allegedly rang to clear their imports through customs at cut-price rates.

Presidential elections are being held in early September, but electoral law bars Mr Perez Molina from standing for another term.

He has faced calls to stand down from across Guatemalan society and investigators are seeking to end his immunity from prosecution.

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