Erika Lorena Aifan Dávila – Guatemalan judge, favourite of left wing movement. Some journalists of extreme leftist views do their best to make her famous despite a number of embarrassing situations for which any other judge would have been penally prosecuted. But for judge Aifan everything is forgiven and her public image is that of a defender of human rights. The reality is very different from this heroic myth.
My family and I first heard of this judge when in 2016 she was named Controlling Judge of Major Risk Court. Our case, called «Migration Case» back then, was her first case there. CICIG and FECI tried to achieve only two things in that case: the first one is to aid Kremlin in its political persecution against my family and the second one was to cover up Cutino crime ring. Before, Migration Case was in hands of judge Miguel Galvez who, despite being loyal to CICIG, was not as cruel as their other judges and after keeping my wife and daughter imprisoned for a year he let them out under house arrest. CICIG obviously didn’t like this outcome and so the case was promptly transferred from Miguel Gálvez to Erika Aifan. We didn’t know it back then but it was one of the common practices of CICIG to pass their cases to obedient judges if they could not achieve the desired sentences right away.
A friend of mine who was a magistrate of Supreme Court of Justice told me that judge Aifan was selected by CICIG and promoted through her career for her loyalty and so her only criteria is to do what is asked of her by CICIG. I was warned but still found it hard to believe that any judge can be completely blind to justice. How wrong I was!
Back then, in our second year of trial, we still hoped to find objectivity somewhere inside the legal system of Guatemala and had absolutely no idea of how corrupted everyone was around Thelma Aldana and Ivan Velasquez. My wife Irina met with Ivan Velasquez in hopes of explaining the situation to him, looking for justice, and gave him numerous evidence of Cutino crime ring and their operations for whose crimes we were blamed. She also told him that some of his prosecutors are collaborating with Kremlin against us. Years later Velasquez denied ever having met Irina or even knowing about our case, however, that meeting was in public and was filmed on camera, including how Velasquez abruptly left without a word. Later we also received a letter that Velasquez sent to Thelma Aldana personally asking her «to take care» of our case. It was Velasquez who selected a particular prosecutor that must act against us. So not only he knew about our case but he was in charge of torturing my family for all these years.
Another thing we didn’t know was that CICIG, FECI, Thelma Aldana, Cutino crime ring – they all had common interests. You see, Mayra Veliz, who is at the head of Cutino crime ring, was working together with Thelma Aldana in public ministry. Thelma Aldana was the general prosecutor and Mayra Veliz was secretary of public ministry. They both worked closely with Ivan Velasquez. Another character that you should know about is ex minister of international affairs Raul Morales – he signed documents issued in anomalous way. So it’s understandable why not a single member of Cutino ring was ever prosecuted. But being foreigners in Guatemala and still speaking Spanish with difficulties we had no idea about how entwined the whole system was. Cutino crime ring made documents for thousands of foreigners – authentic Guatemalan documents issued by Guatemalan government but in an anomalous way. They made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits every year.
To avoid being suspected of their illegal operations, general prosecutor Thelma Aldana opened a case together with CICIG in courts of Highest Risk of Guatemala where they choose spagegoats on whom to blame activities of the whole crime ring. For spage goats they selected 40 ordinary people: workers of airport, of RENAP and of Migration Office – low level clerks some of whom didn’t even know how to use computer. There was one person amongst them who didn’t know how to read or write! Of course all those people protested during their trials and sweared that they don’t know anything about any crime ring but no one listened to them. Back then CICIG and Thelma Aldana were icons in Guatemala, loved and adored by public. They used to make shows out of legal cases – announcing loudly every time they would capture someone and stating before trial that this person is a dangerous criminal or that person is corrupt. People believed them. Now that CICIG does not exist anymore we can look at their statistics and see that 90% of their cases were never resolved because they lacked evidence, so only now people understand that those who were deemed as criminals were in fact innocent.
What Ivan Velasquez and Thelma Aldana did was to include us in Migration Case – the one where they used spagegoats. In first trials they put our photos at the top of this «crime ring» and accused us of suppressing, altering and usurping civil statuses and of using fake documents. Their plan was to extradite us quickly to Russia and close the case. They didn’t expect that the case will be known internationally for its human rights abuses. But let’s not get so far ahead.
So, the judge Aifan was selected to take over the case. The first audience took place on 03.08.2016. It was dedicated to revision of conditions of those imprisoned – to see if anyone can leave under house arrest, including me. In my argument I used Palermo Convention – it states that responsibility for document emission to immigrants always lies on the person or institution that issues those documents and not on the immigrant who receives them. Seems to be common sense. However, CICIG in it´s counter argument said that I am not immigrant. I couldn’t believe when I saw that judge Aifan not only accepted this absurd argument but also made a «deeper analysis» into the subject stating that if my family is asking for refugee status in Guatemala then we are not immigrants anymore and thus are not protected by Palermo Convention nor by Migration Law.
In conclusions Aifan said that she still isn’t sure if we are immigrants or refugees and she plans on resolving this later but meanwhile I must stay in prison. We were shocked by this absurdity.
This was the first day of a large process where law was twisted and manipulated and human rights didn’t seem to exist. One of those violations was participation of VTB Bank in our trials. They participated on the side of prosecution during a year and a half without ever submitting a single piece of evidence to support their claims. Prosecutors said many times that the case originated because of VTB Bank´s claim but this was not a civil court where banks claims are resolved, this was criminal court and the formal accusations had nothing to do with the bank. We presented all those arguments to judge Aifan but each one was refused.
Judge Aifan faithfully defended interests of the bank without having ANY evidence from them. It was obvious that there is something else in play apart from justice, something personal. Later Appellations Court excluded VTB Bank from the process for lack of evidence revoking all Aifan´s rulings in bank´s favour, so there definitely was no legal reason for the judge to defend it.
The majority of Aifan´s audiences were suspended for various false pretexts, just to prolong the trial so that I would be kept in prison. Let me give you an example. One evening the judicial translator, assigned to my family, called me. She said that she received a call from Aifan´s office saying she should not come tomorrow. The next day we were brought to court judge to hear that judge Aifan is suspending the audience because translator couldn´t come. The lie was there – bare and ugly – caused by intention to keep me in prison. This abuse lasted for months! I couldn’t stand it any longer and said what I thought in that audience.
Accusations made against us were absurd: we never altered or usurped civil statuses of anyone, people whose statuses were supposedly usurped didn´t even exist. Every crime needs a victim, here there was no victim so CICIG said that we abused public trust which is impossible because we are not public officials. We presented abundant evidence explaining how documents emission process works, how governors are involved, how RENAP and Migration office are involved, how at least 15 high ranking public officers are involved including minister of International Affairs but this was to no avail. Experts of INACIF confirmed that our documents were authentic so how could we possibly be processed for usage of fake documents?!
Month after month we kept presenting new evidence against Cutino crime ring. Aifan kept finding excuses to avoid it´s investigation. Now we know why – she was covering them up, it´s members made her career as a judge but back then we still looked for hope. Once she said that she can´t make in-depth analysis of juridical matters; next she said that we are not immigrants because we want to be refugees; then that there are no resources right now to investigate Cutino crime ring… it went on and on, she faithfully covered up Cutino crime ring at every audience while continuing accusing us of its crimes.
This is how judge Aifan ruled that we must be judged by a tribunal. She concluded that we are guilty of using fake documents when the documents were authentic, of suppressing and altering someone’s civil status without a single evidence to support this claim, of usurping someone´s civil status when that someone never existed! She also ruled that we are not protected by Migration Law nor by Palermo Convention because we are not immigrants.
She ruled that my daughter Anastasia was also guilty despite the fact that her documents were issued when she was a child! Aifan manipulated the facts and the law to send my whole family to trial at any cost.
The real crime ring was kept in complete impunity. Not a single one out of 15 public officials, who participated in the process of issuing of our documents, was investigated. Those include governors, secretaries of municipalities, vice-ministers, sub-director of Migration Office and others. Amongst them is Mayra Yojana Veliz Lopez who was sub-director of Migration Office and who signed cedula (local identification document) of my daughter Anastasia. Later she became secretary of public ministry and observed how we were accused for documents that she herself signed! Of course it’s not a coincidence that judge Aifan covered up all those people including Mayra Veliz. It is especially notable in the speech of Aifan where she lied that Anastasia´s proof of residence does not exist. Later we proved that it exists and found signature of Mayra Veliz there. It was taken from our house during arrest and I found it in photo-album of evidence in expertise report of INACIF.
Judge Aifan was extremely persistent in cover up of Cutino ring. I told you of her pretexts to not investigate the ring but she also refused to accept any evidence against the ring. Here are her arguments. The first time she said that there is not enough evidence, then she said the this evidence is not relevant; next time she announced that it was obtained after public ministry accused us (which is absurd, how could we obtain it before!). TV Channel Guatevision made a video where international experts spoke of operations of Cutino ring and of our case. She also refused to accept it saying that she is not sure who made the video, which is to say she doesn’t know the largest Guatemalan TV Channel!
My lawyer presented recourses against Aifan´s resolution for refusing to accept any evidence. Law obliges judges to accept new evidence which helps establish the truth. Aifan refused this recourse saying that the adequate moment for presenting evidence will be during final trial. The ridiculous thing here is that we shouldn’t have gone to final trial if she wouldn’t have covered up the whole crime ring! It was absolutely shocking to see how judge always uses false pretexts to refuse any evidence against Cutino, diligently covering up all its members. Going ahead, let me tell you that in the final trial the evidence was rejected again with an argument that the right time to submit it was during Aifan´s audiences. Both judge Aifan and tribunal of Yassmin Barrios covered up Cutino ring.
On 20.10.2017 Court of Appellations resolved in our favour and annulled rulings of judge Aifan categorizing them as unjust. This meant that our trial was cancelled, we were finally winning! I was still in prison but now I had hope of justice and of being free and reunited with my family. Unbelievably, judge Aifan, together with her friend judge Yassmin Barrios, ignored the ruling of higher court. Against the law they continued the trial. Yassmin Barrios argued that the ruling of higher court can be appealed and thus she rejects and won’t follow it. This was unprecedented, shocking and illegal. No one knew how to react or what to do. I remain imprisoned. Before higher court could take any measures judge Yassmin Barrios sentenced me to 19 years of prison, my wife and daughter to 14 years each. There was no evidence against us, no witnesses, not even a decent explanation of how possibly we could commit those crimes. Judges simply ignored the truth and obeyed CICIG´s orders.
Our tragedy came to attention of Helsinki Commission of United States. It’s A US government commission that promotes human rights, military security and economic cooperation in 57 countries. On 27th of April 2018 Helsinki Commission held an audience about our case. It was presided by Congressman Chris Smith. Our lawyers attended the audience and told of what was happening in Guatemala. Their testimonies were confirmed by Bill Browder – creator of Global Magnitsky Act. He followed our case closely from the beginning. Ivan Velasquez was invited to give explanations but he chose not to give any and didn´t attend. As a result funds of CICIG were frozen by US. Only then he reacted and began to deny that he had any knowledge of our case. His lies were easily exposed by abundant evidence.
One day before the audience in Helsinki Commission, Constitutional Court of Guatemala annulled our sentences. Everyone was congratulating us. We waited for our freedom; but no order was coming; we were still imprisoned. Incredibly our case was transferred back to Erika Aifan for a new resolution! Judge Aifan committed another injustice then. Without showing up to the audience, she sent a piece of paper with her secretary. This was her ruling: she separated my case from Migration case but left my wife and daughter there. She then ordered that I must be sent to a new trial being accused of the exact same crimes. She also declared that Cutino crime ring does not exist and therefore I am not protected by Palermo Convention. This absurd argument without any logic had nothing to do with Law, no one could believe this new injustice. For some reason judge Aifan continued to cover up Cutino crime ring while condemning me again.
This new «argument» of judge Aifan that Cutino does not exist was shocking. We presented abundant evidence including its operations, their commercial patents, list of their members with personal data and addresses, copies of identification documents of Marcos Cutino and his associate Kenneth Biderman as well as many other members. First both judges: Erika Aifan and Yassmin Barrios refuse to accept any evidence against Cutino and then judge Aifan declares that it doesn’t exist!
The curious thing with documents of Marcus Cutino and Kenneth Biderman was that they were supposedly born in Guazacapan of Santa Rosa whose governor is Francisco Orantes. Marcus Cutino is US citizen and was born in US so this was obviously anomalous. The governor, however, was never investigated.
In audience of 16.05.2018 we discovered something very serious. It turned out that Aifan was reporting to Russian Embassy, giving them details of our case. She knew that we are politically persecuted and are asking for refugee status in Guatemala and yet she was informing Russian Embassy giving them reserved information.
In one of her letters to Russian Embassy judge Aifan stated pre-seen sentences for my family. This was before we were even sent to final trial, far before the actual sentencing. We recused judge Aifan for this.
Casually judge Aifan refused the recusation herself explaining that she didn´t sent those letters voluntarily but by orders of Judicial Body.
Those reports are not the only evidence that we have of collaboration between judge Aifan and Russian Government. For example, these photos of her having lunch with Russian Representatives in a restaurant during work hours.
Judge Aifan is one of the protagonists in persecution against my family. Aifan, CICIG and FECI coordinated the persecution with Russian Government. We have abundant evidence of this collusion.
Judge Aifan also committed the gravest of crimes – torture. On 16.05.2018 together with judge Yassmin Barrios she ordered my immediate transfer to court when I was gravely ill with stomach ulcer and have reported it previously. She then ordered me to stand in parking lot with hands cuffed behind my back for 4 hours. She was found guilty of torture by Commission of Prevention of Torture and still remained as judge in our case.
In our case judge Erika Aifan committed enough crimes to not only loose the status of judge but to also be prosecuted for crimes of prevarication, cover up of criminal structure, obstruction of justice and torture. 3rd Court of Appellations in their resolution ordered to investigate Erika Aifan for personal interests that she showed in our case, violating the law, collaborating with Russian representatives, defending interests of VTB Bank and torturing my family. However, judge Aifan has her powerful patrons: CICIG, politicians and magistrates from extreme left wing. Incredibly, after violating the resolution of Constitutional Court, Aifan presented a personal complaint to the same Constitutional Court and 3 magistrates – extreme leftists who supported her – annulled the final decision of Appellations Court.
Now Erika Aifan is actively looking for political protection from powerful US Congressmen who surely don’t know what type of person she really is.
It´s a notorious fact that judge Erika Aifan committed many crimes including illegal detentions, abuse of power, violations of human rights and many, many others. It’s appalling that, using her connections, she remains an influential figure in judicial system of Guatemala up to this date.