After clinging to power through months of unprecedented protests, the conservative leader finally bowed out hours before a court hearing where he faces being remanded in custody pending trial a decision that would have automatically removed him from office under Guatemalan law.
Congress voted unanimously on Tuesday to strip the 64 year old retired general's presidential immunity, a first in the Central American country's history. The scandal had already felled a raft of top officials, including former vice president Roxana Baldetti, who resigned in May and is in jail awaiting trial. The new vice president, Alejandro Maldonado, is now due to assume power until Perez's successor is sworn in on January 14.
Perez sent his resignation to Congress 'to protect the country's institutions' and 'keep the office of the president away from the judicial process,' presidential spokesman Jorge Ortega said.
Prosecutors accuse Perez of masterminding a highly organized corruption scheme that defrauded the state of millions of dollars.
The scandal erupted in April, when investigators from a United Nations commission tasked with fighting high level graft in Guatemala accused administration officials of running a system in which businesses paid bribes to clear their imports through customs at a fraction of the actual tax rate.
A judge barred him from leaving the country after his immunity was stripped. The country's highest court rejected two motions filed by his lawyers challenging the legality of the proceedings against him. In a last ditch bid to avoid being taken into custody, Perez then filed a court document saying he would cooperate with the investigation.


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