January 20, 2007 / 4:23 AM / 13 years ago

Paraguay ex-president's corruption trial suspended

ASUNCION, Paraguay (Reuters) - Corruption charges against former Paraguayan President Luis Gonzalez Macchi were dropped when a court failed to sentence him before a Sunday night deadline, a judicial source said.

Former Paraguayan President Luis Gonzalez Macchi leaves the Justice Palace after giving testimony in a corruption case, in Asuncion, September 5, 2003. Corruption charges against Macchi were dropped when a court failed to sentence him before a Sunday night deadline REUTERS/Str EM

The three judges on the tribunal were supposed to hand down a sentence by Sunday night, but they canceled hearings on Sunday. Both defense and prosecution had been criticized in Paraguay for dragging out the case.

“The court decided it was impossible to reach a verdict in the time established, so they suspended audiences. The clock is still running but the case can be considered extinct,” said a source who participated in the trial and who asked not to be identified.

The source said Gonzalez Macchi, 58, president from 1999 to 2003, was free of charges of illicit enrichment, which can be punished by up to 10 years in prison, but could still be sentenced for false testimony, a crime punishable with up to five years.

The legal process started in 2004 when authorities found a Swiss bank account in the name of Gonzalez Macchi and his wife, Susana Galli. Almost $1 million in deposits were made to the account when Gonzalez Macchi was still in office.

According to prosecutors, part of the money was deposited by business leader Reinaldo Dominguez Dibb, who won casino concessions during Gonzalez Macchi’s presidency.

Dominguez Dibb has been charged with bribery.

Gonzalez Macchi says the money was part of an inheritance and he did not declare it to the state comptroller due to administrative problems.

Gonzalez Macchi’s government has been called the most corrupt during the country’s transition to democracy from military rule by opposition politicians, analysts and even by members of his own Colorado Party.

In June, he was given a preliminary sentence of six years in prison for an irregular process in which $16 million from bankrupt financial institutions was deposited abroad. The sentence was overturned by an appeals court.

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