Guatemalan former president accused of taking bribes from Spanish company

Guatemala City, Apr 16 (EFE).- Guatemala's former president, Otto Perez Molina, and his then-vice president, Roxana Baldetti, both of whom are being held in pre-trial detention in a separate corruption case, allegedly led a criminal scheme to award a port-terminal contract to Spanish company Grup TCB, officials said.

At least nine people have already been detained in the case and five others are the subject of an international arrest order, Attorney General Thelma Aldana, Government (Interior) Minister Francisco Rivas and the head of the U.N.-sponsored CICIG anti-impunity commission, Ivan Velazquez, said in a press conference Friday.

The detainees include Spaniard Juan Jose Suarez, the head of Barcelona-based TCB's Guatemalan unit, which was awarded a $255 million contract to expand Puerto Quetzal - the nation's largest Pacific port - and operate it for 25 years.

The scheme involved payment of a $24.5 million "commission," some of which allegedly was used to pay unions opposed to the project and oversight bodies, although prosecutors are still conducting their investigation.

Prosecutors allege that Perez Molina and Baldetti received 60 percent of the bribes.

Perez Molina, who resigned last September amid weeks of street protests, is jailed on charges of criminal conspiracy and bribe-taking in connection with the "La Linea" case, in which importers allegedly bribed government officials in exchange for substantially reduced tariffs.

Baldetti, who is also accused of bribe-taking and criminal conspiracy in the La Linea case, resigned last May and was arrested three months later.