Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala investigates Lake Amatitlan clean-up plan

Former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti (R) appears before court during a hearing in Villa Nueva, Guatemala, 10 March 2016. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Roxana Baldetti has denied her involvement in the lake fraud scheme.

A judge in Guatemala has ordered that a former vice-president be held in prison over an allegedly fraudulent plan to clean up pollution at Lake Amatitlan.

Roxana Baldetti is accused of leading a scheme in which millions were spent on a product to decontaminate the lake.

Testing revealed the product, which was never used, was mainly sea water.

Ms Baldetti also faces charges, along with ex-President Otto Perez Molina, over alleged corruption in a customs duties scheme.

The judge also ordered that her brother, Mario Baldetti, be detained over the plan, and some 15 more people are implicated in the alleged fraud.

Lake Amatitlan, about 30km (20 miles) south of the capital, Guatemala City, was once a popular weekend getaway for the wealthy.

But the lake became polluted with untreated sewage from the populated outskirts of the capital.

In March last year, the Roxana Baldetti told the media she had a "magic solution" and that she would restore the lake to its past glory.

Prosecutors allege Ms Baldetti received bribes, after she urged the government to award a contract to a company which would provide a chemical to clean up the lake.

Ms Baldetti denied this and said she received no money for the contract.

She is also accused of setting up her brother Mario Baldetti as head of the authority responsible for managing the lake.

Pressure from environmentalists and civic groups forced the suspension of the project and the "magic solution" was never used.

The government was persuaded to order the tests that revealed that it was in fact mostly sea water.

Ms Baldetti is already in jail for involvement in a corruption scheme in the customs department alongside her former boss, ex-President Otto Perez Molina.

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