Oxfam chairman arrested in Guatemala

Former Guatemalan finance minister and the chairman of under-fire British-based charity group Oxfam International, Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, attends a court hearing after his arrest on corruption charges.
Former Guatemalan finance minister and the chairman of under-fire British-based charity group Oxfam International, Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, attends a court hearing after his arrest on corruption charges. PHOTO: AFP

GUATAMALA CITY (AFP) - The chairman of under-fire British charity group Oxfam International, Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, was arrested on Tuesday (Feb 13) in his native Guatemala in a swoop related to government graft allegations, officials said.

He was detained along with former president Alvaro Colom, and other members of Colom's 2008-2012 government, in which Fuentes served as finance minister.

Fuentes's arrest came as Oxfam is being shaken by revelations that some of its staff used prostitutes in Haiti and Chad, as well as accusations of sexual assault in South Sudan.

The allegations have led to the resignation of Oxfam's deputy chief Penny Lawrence and intense scrutiny from the British government, which partly funds the charity, to the tune of US$44 million last year.

There was no suggestion of any link between the Guatemala graft accusations and the scandal engulfing Oxfam.

An Oxfam spokesperson said: "As far as we are aware, no formal charges have been made against Dr Fuentes Knight. He has been entirely open with the Oxfam board and executive about the investigation which began after he was appointed as Oxfam chair." The spokesperson said Fuentes "maintains his innocence and assures us that he has cooperated fully with the investigation."

Oxfam International is a confederation of 20 non-governmental organisations that fight poverty in more than 90 countries.