The government of USA confirmed a suspicion that the local prosecutor’s office had in 2021: that mining businessmen linked to Russian capital traveled to Guatemala City that year to guarantee, at the point of bribes the stability of its nickel and other metal extraction operations on Guatemalan soil.
One of the main ones pointed out in this corruption scheme is Alejandro Giammatteithe president of the country, whom the Public Ministry investigated in June 2021 after a witness assured that executives and employees of Mayaníquel, a Guatemalan company owned by the Russian mining consortium TelfAg and one of those sanctioned by Washington, handed over the president million dollars wrapped in a rug that they took to their house in a luxurious area of the capital.
On November 18, the Treasury Department sanctioned with the Magnitsky Law to Mayanickel and two other Guatemalan companies, the Guatemalan Nickel Company (CGN) Y Pronic
The United States will apply the Magnitsky Act to those sanctioned through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which allows US authorities to freeze all financial and other assets they hold in the United States, as well as sanction individuals or companies that do business with Russian miners and their Guatemalan associates.
US authorities are not releasing the names of the specific officials the Russians bribed, but the Treasury Department’s language has direct implications for Alejandro Giammattei, the president of Guatemala, according to a Biden administration official consulted, who spoke with infobae from anonymity for not being authorized to do so in public and who knows closely how the Treasury operates when applying these sanctions.
“Mr. Giammattei would have to read these sanctions very carefully. His name is not written there, but the message seems quite clear,” the official said.
In June 2021, the Special Prosecutor against Impunity (FECI) of the Guatemalan Public Ministry (FECI) opened an investigation file on Giammattei, president of the country since 2020, after a security guard declared that Russians led by the Kazakh businessman Alexander Machkevich They gave a million-dollar bribe to the president to guarantee the good course of Russian mining operations.
John Francis Sandoval he was the head of the FECI at the time, but he ceased to be only a month later, after his boss, the attorney general consuelo porras, fired him, largely to bury the Giammattei investigation. Sandoval had to leave Guatemala in exile, where prosecutor Porras, appointed by the president in office and whom the State Department in Washington has named as a corrupt and undemocratic official, began a criminal prosecution that already includes four arrest warrants and close to 100 Files open against the ex-prosecutor.
Today, Sandoval considers that the US sanctions are confirmation that his investigation of Giammattei had substance. “They give credibility to facts that he was documenting in Guatemala prior to my departure. Consuelo Porras, instead of supporting the investigation, dismissed me and two months later issued an arrest warrant against me for that investigation, ”he told Prensa Comunitaria, the Guatemalan outlet that has most investigated Russian mining activity in the country.
Bribes to keep running
Mayaníquel, one of those sanctioned and the company accused of bribing Giammattei, is part of a million-dollar nickel extraction operation in the departments of Izabal and Alta Verapaz, in the northeast of the country.
At the end of April 2021, several Russian executives and the Kazakh Machkevich arrived in Guatemala in a jet owned by the latter for a visit that lasted several days and included at least one meeting with Anthony Maloufthen Giammattei’s Minister of Economy and one of the main links of the Guatemalan business community with the Russia of Vladimir Putin. It was in those days that the president received the carpet loaded with money, according to the witness interviewed by FECI in Sandoval.
Not a month had passed since that visit when the Giammattei government granted, on May 18, a nickel exploitation license to Mayaníquel in a place known as La Ruidosa. Giammattei’s predecessors had not granted this permit, which had been pending since 2010.
The investigations of Sandoval’s FECI, as well as subsequent journalistic publications, also established that Mayaníquel had offered the Giammattei government a deal to manage, without greater control, an area of the Puerto Santo Tomas de Castillain the Guatemalan Caribbean. It is through this port that Mayaníquel and the Russians from Solway Investment Group export the nickel and other metals they extract from their mines. The deal for the port with Mayaníquel fell through after Sandoval made public the bribe to the president.
as well as the Russian citizen Dimitri Kudriakov and the Belarusian Iryna Litviniuk, executives of Solway Investment Groupa mining consortium based in Switzerland and fed with capital from oligarchs close to the Russian orbit, such as the Estonian Aleksander Bronstein.
All of these people are accused by the US government of being involved in “multiple bribery schemes over the years, involving Guatemalan politicians, judges and officials”, and of “carrying out corrupt acts in support of Russian influence peddling schemes.” by illegally giving cash payments to public officials in exchange for support of Russian mining interests.”
The government of the Guatemalan president has also favored Solway and its Guatemalan subsidiaries CGN and Pronico, also sanctioned by the Treasury Department on November 18. In 2019, the Constitutional Court (CC), the highest court in the country, ruled against the Solway mine after an appeal filed by Q’eqchi’ fishermen and other indigenous leaders, representatives of communities affected by the contamination caused by the nickel miners in neighboring Lake Izabal, the largest in the country.
The CC’s ruling, reiterated by the court in 2020, ordered an immediate halt to mining operations until the Russian companies and their affiliates conducted free and informed consultation with Q’eqchi’ leaders, which did not occur. However, with the complicity of the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the public force led by Giammattei, the mine continued to operate illegally.
In October 2021, without the government taking them into account for the environmental consultation demanded by the CC, Q’eqchi’ leaders blocked the road that leads to the town of the blind, where the mine is located, and prevented access to the supply of coal that the nickel extraction plant needs to operate. To solve the problem, the Giammattei government sent a contingent of hundreds of policemen and soldiers to clear the road to the mine and then declared a state of siege during which Guatemalan state agents harassed the indigenous leaders and journalists who eqchi’ who gave coverage to those events.
From Solway and the subsidiaries, those in charge of supervising the relationship with the Guatemalan State were the Russian Dimitri Kudryakov and the Belarusian Iryna Litviniukthe two individuals sanctioned by Washington.
The Russian Kudriakov and the Belarusian Litviniuk
Dimitri Kudriakov has been helped by the Guatemalan state since the middle of the last decade, when the Fénix Mining Project, owned by the Russians from Solway, began operations at the El Estor mine.
In 2014, the inaugural acts of the mine came Otto Perez Molinathen president of Guatemala, and who a year later was arrested for corruption crimes, partly thanks to investigations carried out by the then prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, the same one who later investigated the bribery of Giammattei.
A year after the inauguration, Kudriakov had to appear in a Guatemalan court to answer for the death of three students from the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), which occurred under unclear circumstances in an area of influence of the mine. Relatives of the victims assure that a mine employee participated in the murders, for which Kudriakov was forced to respond in court. Although the judge Anibal Arteaga, in charge of the case, tied the Russian to the process for a while, allowed him to leave and enter Guatemala without restrictions, something that was not supposed to happen. An international journalistic investigation revealed, based on internal mine documents, that Arteaga is one of the Guatemalan officials to whom Solway and its subsidiaries provided royalties.
When, in 2019 and 2020, the Constitutional Court prohibited the operation of the mine, Kudriakov oversaw the legal response and, again, took charge of relations with the Giammattei government. The Russian was always so sure that he could operate despite legal restrictions that he let his boss, the Estonian magnate, know so. Alexander Bronsteinco-founder of Solway.
“We are quickly getting productivity back… We are working, maintaining equipment, continuing production, which can inflame the brains of these sick people if they find out,” Kudriakov writes to Bronstein in an email leaked by the Guacamaya hacker collective, and which served as the basis for the international journalistic investigation of the Russian mines in Guatemala.
To counter the CC ruling, Kudriakov and his subordinates carried out a surveillance operation of indigenous leaders, journalists and judges who ruled against the mine. In the end, political operators allied with President Giammattei ended up removing from the Constitutional Court Gloria Porras, the president of the court that prohibited the operation of the mine. Porras, like former prosecutor Sandoval, lives today exiled in Washington.
The Belarusian Iryna Litviniuk was also part of the operation to guarantee the operation of the Russian mine despite Guatemalan laws. His was an image damage containment role.
Litviniuk was in 2018 an employee of Pronico, another of the companies sanctioned by the United States. One of her main missions was to reduce the damage to the image of the Fénix mining project that could be caused by events such as the death of UVG students, complaints of contamination of Lake Izabal or the death of the Q’eqchi fisherman. Carlos Maazkilled by police in 2017 during a protest against the mine.
In 2018, as part of the communications and propaganda strategy, CGN and Pronico decided to respond to requests from international press media that wanted to talk about various topics, including the death of fisherman Carlos Maaz. On November 11, Litviniuk wrote to a lawyer for the mine to prepare questions and answers that could be asked in the interview with journalists so that the interview would not “get out of hand”.
In this exchange between the Belarusian and the legal team of the miners, there are also references to the explosion of a boiler at the El Estor plant, which left seven dead in 2016, which the mine tried to minimize by hiding the failures that the machinery Presenting and denying two of the seven deaths.
Litviniuk also oversaw plans carried out by employees of the El Estor municipality, accused of receiving money from the mine, to profile leaders opposed to nickel mining and critical journalists. Several of those profiled ended up being criminally accused by the Guatemalan Public Ministry.
The nickel mine at El Blind, Guatemala, continues to operate despite court rulings prohibiting it. Investigations into Guatemalan officials implicated in the corruption scheme that has enabled it have been dismissed by Attorney General Consuelo Porras, a political ally of President Alejandro Giammattei. Today, the Treasury Department’s sanctions have put the scandal back on the table of Guatemalan politics.
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