- Title: Former Colombian prosecutor Ivan Velasquez contender for Nobel Peace Prize
- Date: 1st October 2016
- Summary: BANNERS WITH FACES OF PEREZ AND BALDETTI ON THEM
- Embargoed: 16th October 2016 14:02
- Keywords: Ivan Velasquez Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala CICIG Otto Perez Nobel Peace Prize
- Location: GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA
- City: GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA
- Country: Guatemala
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA004526VN0N
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A former Colombian state prosecutor, who played a key role in rooting out corruption at the heart of the Guatemalan government, has emerged as a Nobel Peace Prize hopeful.
Colombian-born Ivan Velasquez in 2013 took on the role of commissioner at the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).
The UN-backed body was originally set up to deal with paramilitary gangs in 2007.
But nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible," Velasquez shifted the CICIG's focus to political corruption, having previously exposed links between nearly 200 lawmakers and organised crime in Colombia.
In Guatemala, Velasquez used information gleaned from the cell phone of a Chinese businessman caught up in a prior customs fraud to untangle a scheme where importers paid bribes to avoid customs duties. According to the CICIG, the scam led all the way to President Otto Perez and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti.
Perez denied involvement in the customs scheme and accused the U.S. government of forcing him to extend the CICIG's mandate by threatening to cut off U.S. aid to Guatemala if he refused.
But tens of thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets to pile pressure on Perez over the CICIG findings. He resigned and was taken into custody so he could face fraud and corruption charges leveled against him by the CICIG.
Baldetti was forced to stand down over the customs probe and she was later arrested.
Under Velasquez, the CICIG had gone from being an obscure, forgotten office of the United Nations to a force that implicated hundreds of high-profile politicians, bankers and business people in corruption cases in Latin America.
Velasquez was born in Medellin, Colombia and initiated investigations against extrajudicial killings and torture during the height of Colombia's "narcopolitics".
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo on Friday October 7, at 11:00 a.m. (0900 GMT).
The prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns (1.1 million U.S. dollars), will be presented on December 10, 2016.
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