Guatemala ministers arrested over helicopter 'gift'

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Guatemalan former Defence Minister Manuel Lopez Ambrosio arrives at a courthouse after being arrested in Guatemala CityImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Lopez Ambrosio was arrested in Guatemala City on Saturday

Two former Guatemalan ministers have been arrested as part of a major investigation led by a United Nations-backed commission.

The two men, Manuel Lopez Ambrosio and Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, have been accused of using public funds to buy a helicopter that was given as a gift to former President Otto Perez Molina.

He was arrested in September after standing down amid widespread anti-corruption protests.

Mr Perez Molina denies all the charges.

Mr Lopez Ambrosio served as defence minister and Mr Lopez Bonilla as interior minister in Mr Perez Molina's government.

They are facing several charges, including money laundering and conspiracy.

Customs bribery scheme

The government was brought down last year by a scandal involving Guatemala's customs services.

Vice-President Roxana Baldetti was forced to resign in May after the scandal became public, prompting Guatemalans to take to the streets in anger.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Ms Baldetti and Mr Perez Molina (right) appeared in court earlier this month
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Last year's protests were backed by many business and religious leaders

Ms Baldetti was accused of running the bribery scheme. She has denied the accusations.

The scandal has been dubbed "La Linea", or "The Line", after the hotline businesses allegedly rang to clear their imports through customs at cut-price rates.

Protests demanding the resignation of the president went on for months in the impoverished Central American nation last year.

Mr Perez Molina finally stood down on 2 September, four months before the end of his term. He was arrested a day later.

A former television comedian with no previous experience in government, Jimmy Morales, was elected in the scheduled October presidential elections.

He took office in January promising to fight corruption in Guatemala.

The corruption investigations are being headed by the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

The commission was set in 2006 to help Guatemala reform its justice system and confront criminal gangs that had infiltrated the state.