Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala ex-VP Baldetti wanted by US over cocaine charges

Guatemalan former vice-president Roxana Baldetti leaves the Supreme Court after the judge suspended the hearing in which he was to decide on whether a trial against her and former president Otto Perez Molina would take place, at the Supreme Court in Guatemala City on March 28, 2016 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The US want Roxana Baldetti to stand trial for alleged drug trafficking

The United States is seeking the extradition of the former vice-president of Guatemala, Roxana Baldetti, Guatemalan officials say.

US officials suspect Ms Baldetti, 55, of drug trafficking.

Ms Baldetti was arrested in 2015 on charges of money laundering an illicit enrichment in Guatemala. She denies all of the allegations against her.

Officials said she would have to face trial in Guatemala first before being extradited to the United States.

Prosecutors in Washington DC accuse Ms Baldetti of conspiring to import cocaine to the US between 2010 and 2015.

What Roxana Baldetti is suspected of:

  • Taking a 50% cut of illegal payments channelled to officials helping businesses evade customs duties
  • Conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US
  • Leading a scheme in which millions were spent on a product to decontaminate a lake; the product turned out to be mainly sea water

She stepped down from office in May 2015 after she came under suspicion of forming part of a customs fraud scandal dubbed La Línea (The Line) which had implicated her personal secretary.

Police arrested her in August 2015 while she was in hospital receiving treatment.

The allegations against her and then-President Otto Pérez Molina triggered mass protests which eventually forced Mr Pérez Molina to step down in September 2015.

Like Ms Baldetti, Mr Pérez Molina is in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges related to the customs fraud.

Elections held just weeks after Mr Pérez Molina stepped down were won by Jimmy Morales, a former TV comedian with no experience in government who campaigned on a promise to fight graft.

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