In Igor’s last trial which took place in December of 2018, it became painfully obvious how dishonestly CICIG manages their cases. CICIG drowned under the weight of their own lies and as of today that organization does not exist anymore; but back then they were still on peak and abused the due process freely. The organization was headed by Ivan Velasquez Gomez, in the first years of its existence it did have some success and that made Ivan Velasquez feel as if he is above the law and this arrogance has caused a lot of suffering in Guatemala. In many cases he accused completely innocent people and made a public circus out of their trials. Knowing that there is no evidence against those people he then kept them in preventive prison postponing their audiences year after year. Some people could not survive this pressure, this world upside down. They were absolved only after their deaths and Ivan Velasquez never gave any explications to their families. This is the type of organization that was set up to destroy our family.
In those debates CICIG, already shamed by international society, tried to justify their horrendous persecution against our family in collaboration with Russian government.
The first day of trial (5.12.2018) began with brutal abuses of due process. The debates could not begin before our recusation of judge Erika Lorena Aifan Dávila was resolved. We had that judge in the intermediary phase of trial, she was anything but just. Amongst other abuses, she was sending reports to Russian Embassy about our case giving them reserved information and even writing “pre-seen” sentences for our family 7 months before the trial was over. This means that the trial was just a formality to her since she already knew how we will be sentenced.
We recused Erika Lorena Aifan Davila in May of 2018 and that recusation was never resolved. According to Law, new debates could not be started without resolving recusation of previous trial. But the new tribunal presided by Sara Yoc Yoc agreed with representative of CICIG Claudia Gonzalez and with prosecutor of FECI Rudy Manolo Herrera Lemus and ruled that Erika Aifan can resolve her own recusation in her own favour.
The next surprise was just around the corner. We previously denounced prosecutors of FECI and its chief Juan Francisco Sandoval for covering up a powerful criminal organization called Cutino crime ring, it includes high level public officials such as ex-secretary of public ministry Mayra Veliz and ex-minister of international affairs Raul Morales.
Next we explained that CICIG can not be presiding the case since its a clear violation of its mandate. The organization was created to fight with Clandestine Apparatuses of Security representing a national threat but here they were using all their massive resources against a single person and his family. We are immigrants with two children, one of which is 6 years old and the accusation is for document irregularities. It seems absurd that an entire organization is persecuting us in courts of highest risk. Of course we already knew why this happened – CICIG was corrupted by Russian State Banks to help Russian Government in their political persecution against our family – but legally it was still not possible. To this CICIG replied that their mandate has no limits and they can do whatever they want to.
According to Law of Guatemala and of any other country, immigrants are always protected by Migration Law. To take away that protection from our family CICIG announced that we are not the right type of immigrants because we are not vulnerable since we entered the country legally and have economic capacity. Literally like this. Incredibly the tribunal obeyed this absurdity as well.
The next abuse followed almost immediately. The real guilty part here was Cutino crime ring and we presented abundant evidence against it. The judge, however, refused the evidence and refused to investigate that structure. The judge simply repeated CICIG´s words as if everything was agreed between them from before the trial. The argument here was that in this tribunal they don´t judge any crime ring, they only judge us. This confirmed that they are not interested in truth and the whole trial is a mere formality necessary to sentence us.
It was becoming clear that the whole trial is a farce as the tribunal kept rejecting all the legal arguments one after another. They were not interested in facts or in truth, they only wanted to finish what they promised to CICIG – sentence us at any cost. Our lawyers recused the tribunal but of course it was in vain, the tribunal simply resolved in its own favour and continued the theatre.
During the second day of debates we presented detailed explications of how the process of documents issuing really was and accompanied it with abundant evidence. In the process participated 15 public officials from Migration Office and from RENAP. We submitted more than 400 new material evidence as well as 3 witnesses that included Heidi Tamara de Leon – chief of prosecutor office of administrative crimes (she previously investigated Cutino crime ring), Rudy Gallardo – ex director of RENAP (he also investigated the ring and then denounced it), Edgar Bucaro (he worked as lawyer of Kenneth Biderman and knew well Marcos Cutino as well as many others involved in that mafia). Those 3 witnesses were enough to uncover the whole crime ring and stop its operations once and for all but the tribunal obeying CICIG refused to even listen to them. One of prosecutors Rudy Manolo Herrera Lemus – who we denounced for cover up of that crime ring – gave the following argument as to why the tribunal should reject all our evidence: “Here we are not judging any crime ring and that’s why all the evidence against it should be rejected”. Unsurprisingly the tribunal obeyed.
On 6th of December happened an embarrassing for CICIG accident. One of their own experts unknowingly declared against Mayra Veliz – protected by the tribunal and CICIG member of Cutino crime ring. It was expert from INACIF (institution that makes official document analysis for judicial system), he was declaring about documents issued to Anastasia. The analysis showed that not only the documents were authentic and issued by Guatemalan Government but they were also signed by Mayra Veliz personally. It went like this. Our lawyer Amanda Santizo Calderon asked him: “is this cedula authentic?” He said: “yes”. So she then asked: “is it true then that the signature of Mayra Veliz is authentic?” And that’s where the show began. Representative of CICIG Claudia Gonzalez stopped the expert from answering: “Objection, Your Honor! This evidence where the signature of Mayra Veliz appears was rejected by judge Aifan during the stage of submittance of evidence”. Sara Yoc Yoc looked truly scared and immediately declared in favour of the objection. However, Claudia Gonzalez lied and our lawyer showed the judge that this evidence was in fact accepted by judge Aifan. Frustrated, the tribunal had no other choice but to allow the expert to answer. Prosecutors from CICIG and FECI could not allow that so they kept raising various objections in voices filled with panic. Their theater was turning into circus. Poor expert was in a peculiar position, to lie in court is a crime but obviously nor the prosecutors nor the judge wanted to hear the truth. After many objections and rephrasing of the question the expert finally confirmed that the document, the signature and the stamp are all authentic. The cedula that we are talking about is the national identification document of Guatemala, it belonged to Anastasia who was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment for “use of fake documents”. The expert declared that documents were in fact authentic. Mayra Veliz who signed the cedula back then was subdirector of Migration Office and at the moment when we were accused of “use of fake documents” she was secretary of public ministry. In other words she herself signed the document and then declared that it was fake and prosecuted us for it.
As the trial evolved we stopped hoping for any justice from this tribunal. With every passing day it was becoming more obvious that the tribunal was not only blind to the truth but also tried to bury it the best they could. The guilty verdict was agreed upon before the trial even began.
The show continued. On 14th of December 2019 CICIG and FECI stated their conclusions. Their speeches lasted for over 3 hours and Claudia Gonzalez Orellana together with Rudy Manolo Herrera Lemus repeated the same phrases which we can summarise here. According to them Igor is a Russian criminal who came to Guatemala and bought documents with new names to escape Russian prosecution. He is not protected by Migration Law because he is not the right type of immigrant and that’s because he entered the country legally and has economic capacity. Also according to them he committed some mysterious crimes in Russia. Interestingly the formal accusations had nothing to do with what they were saying. In fact CICIG publicly denied to even have any knowledge of what happened to us in Russia. But here their song was different. Igor was never accused of buying documents, nor of changing identity. He was accused of altering, suppressing and usurping civil status of someone who never existed and for documents that were in fact authentic and issued by Government of Guatemala.
Prosecutors never presented a single evidence supporting these absurd accusations. In fact they always changed the subject to anything else and avoided the formal accusations. They spoke of what VTB Bank said and of what Russian Government was saying thus showing the true origin of this prosecution. They asked 14 years of imprisonment for authentic documents issued by Guatemalan Government. They did make some effort attempting to explain why Migration Law does not apply to us but perhaps their efforts here were too much. First they said that we are not immigrants, then they said we lost the status of immigrants because we became refugees, then they invented various types of immigrants and qualified us as the “voluntary immigrants” – a type which they stated has no vulnerability and therefore is not protected by Migration Law. Of course the fact that the Law does not separate immigrants into various types did not matter to anyone including the judge.
Lies of Claudia Gonzalez – representative of CICIG – put the whole institution in a delicate position. Year after year she kept telling judges that Cutino crime ring does not exist. At some point her attempt to cover them up became very obvious because we published enough evidence for Cutino crime ring to become notorious. It was investigated by various prosecutors offices and Claudia Gonzalez finally admitted its existence. In a tone of voice as if this was always the case she said that Cutino was being investigated from 2011 and that there is order of arrest on some of its members. Judges were so used to blindly obeying CICIG in everything that they didn´t even ask for explanations as to why she lied for so many years reassuring that Cutino does not exist. In this video you can hear it for yourself. First the audience from 16.05.2018 and then from 14.12.2018.
On 21.12.2018 our lawyer Rolando Alvarado drew conclusions in which he made obvious the impossibility of accusations made by CICIG and FECI as well as their cover up of Cutino crime ring.
But nothing could stop the inevitable. The tribunal did what it was ordered by CICIG – it sentenced Igor without a single evidence, witness or even common sense; sentenced him against national and international laws; ignoring the fact that he is immigrant. He was sentenced to 5 years for alteration of civil status of a non-existent person and to 2 more years for use of fake but authentic documents.
While reading the sentence the judges did not raise their eyes. Their anxiety was notable. They didn’t want to look him us in the eye because they understood well the extent of injustice they were committing. But there was a surprise at the end of it. After the sentencing the tribunal ordered immediate investigation of public officials that directly participated in the issuing of our documents. Those were the officials that CICIG and FECI protected during all 5 years of our case.
That finale meant that despite being under influence of CICIG the tribunal realized it is likely to cause problems if they don’t order investigation of public officials whose participation in Cutino crime ring was made public. Throwing this responsibility from themselves the tribunal basically confirmed that CICIG and FECI covered up this structure.
Igor: I can conclude that this trial was one abuse more of CICIG against my family on orders of Russian government. Pursuing this plan CICIG lost all its credibility and international reputation and showed its true face: another corrupt organization that values power more than human rights. By the end of that trial their abuses became evident to the world: how they co-opted judges, cooked their cases and generally did everything they wanted. The tribunal afraid of the magnitude of this dirty game that CICIG dragged them into, sentenced me to a term that I already served. Yet some questions remain open:
Why they sentenced me for emission of documents and not people that were actually responsible for it? And if they indeed believed that I was the one responsible then why order investigation of public officials? If I was not responsible then why sentence me? How they decided that it’s ok to pretend that Law divides immigrants into “the right” and “the wrong” types? Without a doubt I can say: this sentence is unjust and illegal. It is against the truth and against judicial logic.
In all the years of its existence CICIG wasted judicial resources of Guatemala on prosecution of many innocent people while covering up the real criminals. They laughed at legal system and run after blind ambition of power. Only in our case they sentenced 40 innocent people and covered up the ones who were truly responsible.
What CICIG achieved in my trial is showing the world it’s true power-hungry face and complete disregard to due process and human rights.