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Treasury Department sanctions former Guatemalan energy minister

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against former Guatemalan energy minister Alberto Primentel Mata for alleged widespread bribery in connection with government contracts, along with his exploitation of the country's mining industry.

The Treasury Department accuses Pimentel of conducting various corruption schemes while serving as the country's minister of energy and mining from 2022 to 2023. Officials said he illegally took large monthly payments in exchange for permits and licenses for a private company working in Guatemala's energy and mining sector.

He also was accused of rigging the bidding process in favor of a company and taking more than $1 million in bribes to guarantee mining licenses to paying companies.

"The United States remains committed to holding accountable those who abuse their positions in pursuit of personal benefits, weakening the public's faith in government institutions," Treasury Under Secretary Brian E. Nelson said in a statement.

"We stand in solidarity with the Guatemalan people as they strive to foster greater transparency, accountability, and government integrity within their system," Nelson said.

The State Department said that they will restrict Pimentel's visa access, as well.

"Pimentel used his official position to exploit the Guatemala mining sector through bribery schemes, including schemes related to government contracts and mining licenses," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

"The United States remains committed to taking action against illicit activities carried out by officials who abuse their positions of power to seek personal benefits at the expense of the Guatemalan people."

The Treasury Department's actions follow a State Department designation last October that cited Pimentel, Gendri Rocael Reyes Mazariegos and Oscar Rafael Perez Ramirez, the vice minister of sustainable development, for their alleged involvement in corruption. That action barred them from entering the United States.