Ex-President Implicated in BCCI Scandal
Oct. 26, 1991
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Prosecutors have filed a formal complaint accusing former President Vinicio Cerezo of receiving kickbacks through a favored client of the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
The complaint stemmed from months of investigation by the Guatemalan attorney general's office into an alleged BCCI-financed coffee-smuggling operation by Jordanian Munther Bilbeisi.
That inquiry led to investigation of the helicopter sale Bilbeisi brokered through a Boca Raton, Fla., company, Mura International. There was no evidence BCCI itself was involved in the 1988 kickbacks on the sale of helicopters.
A Guatemalan judge issued an arrest warrant for Bilbeisi on Sept. 2 on smuggling charges in connection with the coffee case.
Authorities accuse Bilbeisi of shipping coffee from Guatemala to the United States under false country-of-origin papers to avoid export duties.
Chief prosecutor Antonio Mendoza has said the helicopter sale might have been an attempt to funnel hush money to Guatemalan authorities after the coffee-smuggling operation was detected by Bilbeisi's insurance company, Lloyd's of London.
The judge handling the case, Maria Eugenia Villasenor, said 11 people have been implicated in documentation delivered to her by the attorney general's office.
They include Cerezo, who was Guatemala's president from 1986 to January of this year; his half-brother, Milton Cerezo, Bilbeisi and various military officers, retired and on active duty.
The complaint filed by prosecutors is similar to an indictment in the United States. It is made when the attorney general's office feels it has sufficient proof to take a person to trial.
After the court receives such a complaint, it conducts its own investigation and then makes the final determination of whether the case is going to trial.
A Guatemalan prosecutor in the case is expected to travel to the United States and Jordan this week to gather additional documentation needed to prosecute.