UN anti-graft chief to work remotely after Guatemala ban

The head of a U.N.-backed commission investigating corruption in Guatemala will continue to direct its work from outside the country after being barred from re-entering by President Jimmy Morales' government.

Matias Ponce, spokesman for the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known as CICIG for its initials in Spanish, said Wednesday that Ivan Velasquez remains in his post and would work remotely from Washington, where he was holding meetings.

Morales' government announced Tuesday that Velasquez, a Colombian national, would not be allowed to return to the Central American country and that he had asked U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to name a replacement.

The U.N. responded in a statement that he had asked Velasquez to remain in charge "from outside Guatemala until there is more clarity on the situation."

"CICIG and its Commissioner play a pivotal role in the fight against impunity in Guatemala," the statement says. "The U.N. Secretariat has serious concerns about this decision, which it is currently reviewing and which does not appear to be consistent with the Agreement on the establishment of CICIG."

Guterres urged Guatemala to "continue to search for a solution through dialogue," the statement reads.

Working with Guatemalan prosecutors, Velasquez's commission has pressed a number of corruption probes that have ensnared dozens of politicians, public servants and businesspeople.

One case over $1 million in purported illicit campaign financing allegedly received by Morales remains pending. The president denies wrongdoing.

Multiple legal appeals have been filed with Guatemala's Constitutional Court seeking to overturn the order barring Velasquez from entering the country.