Guatemalan judge puts former tax chief under house arrest

Guatemala detains former head of the Tax Administration Superintendency Juan Francisco Solorzano Foppa, in Guatemala City
·1 min read

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A former tax chief in Guatemala known for chasing the wealth of powerful families was put under house arrest on Friday and charged with falsifying documents to register a political party.

Juan Solorzano, head of the Tax Administration Superintendency (SAT) from 2016 to 2018, has been accused by the Electoral Crimes Prosecutor's Office of falsifying documents for the formation of a new political party, including listing a deceased person among the participants at a party meeting.

Judge Israel Zelada said Solorzano, who has been behind bars since his arrest on May 19, could await trial under house arrest because there was little risk he would flee or obstruct the investigation.

Zelada also charged Anibal Arguello, a lawyer who had worked for Guatemala's U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission CICIG, in relation to the case.

"This was a circus. They have wanted to criminalize us, they have wanted to put these handcuffs on us to make us look like members of a criminal organization," Solorzano told reporters after the hearing.

He and Arguello have has said the charges are politically motivated because Solorzano had uncovered a corruption network within SAT that had been defrauding the state by helping business leaders avoid paying taxes.

Arguello, who is a witness in a corruption case against former president Otto Perez Molina, was also released to house arrest. Arguello has denied the allegations, and told reporters after the hearing that he would still testify in corruption cases in which he was involved as a CICIG investigator.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Daniel Wallis)