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Former Guatemala Minister Arrested

January 31, 2002

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Guatemalan police arrested former Interior Minister Byron Barrientos on Thursday as part of an embezzlement scandal.

Police detained Barrientos after the Supreme Court removed the immunity from prosecution he enjoys as a congressman. He was in custody at a local hospital, where officials said Barriento was suffering from intestinal problems and a nervous disorder.

The national comptroller’s office implicated Barrientos and five aides who worked with him at the Interior Ministry in the embezzlement of $6 million.

The comptroller’s office said money was paid into canceled accounts, some bills were inflated and public funds were placed into private bank accounts to earn interest.

Embezzlement carries a prison term of 3 to 10 years.

A court-appointed doctor was to examine Barrientos to determine if he should remain hospitalized or be taken to a jail pending arraignment. Barrientos has denied the accusations.

Barrientos served as interior minister from September 2000 to December 2001.

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