Spot the banana republic(s):
- In one country, several of the world's largest banks settle as petty criminals for rigging the world's largest market and defrauding countless investors. Some get a wristslap. Others, those who have been caught previously manipulating virtually every other market, get probation and promise never to manipulate again despite promising just that a few years ago. Nobody is arrested. Nobody goes to prison.
- In another country, a member of a central bank's executive committee tells a select group of hedge fund millionaires precisely what market moving thing said central bank will do, giving them a 10 hours headstart over the general public to put on the appropriate trades. Hedge funders make millions thanks to the leak defrauding countless investors who do not have the material, market-moving information; central bank blames "internal procedural error." Nobody is arrested. Nobody goes to prison.
- In a third country, the central bank governor is arrested in a bribery probe that also targeted a former presidential aide. The president says "Nobody is above the law. I'm the first one to regret that these situations are occurring and the first to demand that justice is served."
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We are talking about today's record-breaking FX rigging settlement, yesterday's premeditated leak by ECB's Benoit Coeure to hedge funds at the Brevan Howard Centre for Financial Analysis, and ironically, the arrest of Guatemala's central bank governor hours ago.
Guatemala's central bank governor was arrested on Wednesday in a bribery probe that also targeted a former aide of President Otto Perez, who has faced mounting pressure since his vice president quit two weeks ago over a separate graft scandal.
The Guatemalan attorney general's office said it had arrested central bank chief Julio Suarez, and issued an arrest warrant for Juan de Dios Rodriguez, Perez's former personal secretary and head of the Guatemalan Social Security Institute.
The office said Suarez, who has a seat on the institute's board, had been arrested along with 14 others over a $14.5 million medical services contract awarded by the institute. The charges include fraud, influence trafficking and charging illegal commission, prosecutors said.
Ivan Velasquez of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a United Nations-backed group working with prosecutor's on the case, said investigations that began last year found that the contract was rigged in favor of a pharmaceutical company. "We have very coherent evidence to show that the members of the tendering board took illegal steps," Velasquez said.
According to the investigators, taped phone conversations showed that the company, identified by the prosecutor's office as the Guatemalan unit of Mexico's Pisa, paid bribes to officials from the institute to win a dialysis contract. A Pisa spokesman declined to comment.
The central bank said in a statement that Suarez had its full support and that it would continue to operate as normal. The Social Security Institute was not available to comment.
President Perez said he welcomed the investigation.
"Nobody is above the law," Perez said in a televised address. "I'm the first one to regret that these situations are occurring and the first to demand that justice is served."
We are confident that Goldman already has a spare partner or two on their way to take over for Suarez. After all, let no crisis or central bank arrest go to waste.
We are, however, confused: just which is the banana republic?