Guatemalan authorities have detained Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, the chairman of the Oxfam International charity’s board, over corruption charges during his tenure as the finance minister of the Latin American country, media reported Tuesday.
According to the Financial Times, Fuentes was detained along with a group of other former Guatemalan ministers and ex-President Alvaro Colom (2008 – 2012).
The FT added that the detention took place against the backdrop of the investigation into the corruption scandal over purchases of public buses for the needs of the Guatemalan capital.
Colom was arrested in his home in Guatemala City in connection with an investigation into subsidies to a bus service that began operating in the capital in 2010. “For us, everything was legal,” he told reporters, saying he had yet not been notified of charges.
Colom is the second Guatemalan ex-president to be detained for corruption. His succesor, Otto Pérez Molina, is in jail facing trial on charges relating to a major corruption network dubbed “La Linea”.
For its part, Oxfam International said in a statement: “Oxfam does not yet know the nature of formal charges, if any, against Dr Fuentes Knight. However he has been entirely open with his Oxfam board and executive that he has been among former officials being investigated as part of a budgetary transaction made by the Guatemalan government while he was finance minister.”
Winnie Byanyima, the international charity’s executive director, responded to the detention of Fuentes, who had been its chair since 2015 saying that the official had assured the organization that he was cooperating with the investigators.
“Oxfam does not yet know the nature of formal charges, if any, against Dr. Fuentes Knight. However, he has been entirely open with his Oxfam board and executive that he has been among former officials being investigated as part of a budgetary transaction made by the Guatemalan government while he was finance minister. He has assured us that he has cooperated fully with the investigation in the confidence he did not knowingly transgress rules or procedures,” Byanyima said, as quoted by the organization’s press service.
The incident with Fuentes is not the first scandal related to Oxfam that has broken out in recent days.
Last week, The Times reported citing its sources that a number of Oxfam workers, including charity’s former country director for Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, had been spending time in their official residence with prostitutes. On Sunday, the charity was hit by similar allegations that Oxfam staff had paid women for sex in Chad in 2006. Oxfam’s Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence said that she was resigning amid the scandals.