Guatemala’s ex-economy minister charged in money-laundering scheme involving Miami companies

Acisclo Valladares Urruela (YouTube)

MIAMI – Former Guatemala economy minister regularly received backpacks, duffel bags, and briefcases full of dirty money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

At least two Miami companies, a Guatemalan bank, banks in the U.S. were involved in the $9.5 million money-laundering scheme, according to FBI Special Agent Paul J. West.

“During holiday season, cash was delivered clandestinely in boxes of liquor designed to look like holiday gifts,” West said during a deposition.

Acisclo Valladares, a Guatemalan attorney who studied at Georgetown University, was sworn in as the Central American country’s economy minister in 2018.

the 44-year-old son of Guatemala’s ambassador to the United Kingdom and a father of four, knew the money came from narcotrafficking and used it to help bribe corrupt politicians in Guatemala, prosecutors said.

Valladares’s demand for bribe cash “was allegedly so great, he allegedly once remarked to a co-conspirator that politicians must think money grows on trees,” investigators wrote, also accusing the Miami companies of laundering money to South America.

“Although Miami serves as a bridge between the United States and our neighbors to the south, drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and their dirty money are not welcome in our district,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said. 

FBI and DEA Special Agents worked with foreign partners to gather evidence against Valladares. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Miami and Customs and Border Protection in Miami also worked in the case which involves asset forfeiture.

In January, Guatemala declared him a fugitive over allegations of public corruption. He lost his immunity when President Alejandro Giammattei took office. Prosecutors in Guatemala accused him of bribing the-Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who resigned in 2015.

In February, Valladares released a statement on YouTube saying he was not going to submit voluntarily to a “perverse show” because he is innocent. Now in South Florida, Valladares is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.