GUATEMALA CITY – Three senior Guatemalan cabinet ministers were arrested Saturday on corruption charges and authorities said they were seeking to detain two more as part of a continuing crackdown that has already seen a former president jailed.
All of the former officials served under ex-President Otto Perez Molina, who faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy. He denies wrongdoing.
Former Defense Ministers Ulises Anzuelo and Manuel Lopez Ambrosio were arrested, as was ex-Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla.
Chief prosecutor Thelma Aldana said they were part of a group that used about $4.3 million in state funds to buy gifts, including houses, boats and a helicopter, for Perez Molina. They face charges of money laundering and conspiracy.
Perez Molina's former Vice President Roxana Baldetti also is jailed on corruption charges, and also denies wrongdoing.
Aldana said a group of officials organized a collection each year to buy gifts for the president on his birthday.
Aldana said the money was handled by Juan Carlos Monzon, then secretary to Baldetti. Monzon has been collaborating with prosecutors investigating the case.
Interior Minister Francisco Rivas said authorities also have sought international arrest orders for former Energy Minister Erick Archila and former Communications Minister Alejandro Sinibaldi.
Lopez Ambrosio and Lopez Bonilla were arrested at their homes, while Anzueto turned himself in after learning he faced an arrest warrant.
Arriving at court offices, Lopez Bonilla said he did not know why he'd been detained, but expressed confidence in the country's judicial system.
"I believe that at the end of the day, things will be cleared up. I can't say more than that I am proud of the work I did," he said.
About 2,000 people gathered for a demonstration in the center of Guatemala City on Saturday to support the prosecutors and the crackdown on corruption.