Guatemala arrests owner, executives of palm oil firm for bribery, fraud

GUATEMALA CITY, March 16 (Reuters) - The owner and two executives of the largest Guatemalan palm oil producer were arrested on Friday on charges of bribery and tax fraud, authorities said.

Police arrested Hugo Alberto Molina Botran, owner of Reforestadora de Palmas del Petén (Repsa), and the two executives at Guatemala City’s international airport as they returned to the country, police spokesman Pablo Castillo said.

The company said in a statement the three have cooperated with the authorities and “that the evidence that will be presented in due time will prove their innocence.”

Repsa was one of the pioneers in exploiting palm oil in Central America and has served as a supplier to multinationals Nestle SA and Cargill Inc. Both companies have said they would stop buying from the Guatemalan firm.

Guatemalan prosecutors and the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity have accused around 20 businessmen of paying bribes to officials to speed the return of taxes between 2011 and 2014. (Reporting by Sofia Menchu Editing by Tom Brown)