After Outcry, Guatemala Admits: Sheldon Adelson Funded Flight to Israel for Embassy Move

Following days of speculation, Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel says American magnate offered Boeing 767 to officials flying to embassy relocation ceremony

Sheldon Adelson is seen during a reception for the dedication ceremony of the embassy of Guatemala in Jerusalem, at the King David hotel in Jerusalem, May 16, 2018.
\ BAZ RATNER/ REUTERS

United States casino magnate Sheldon Adelson provided Guatemala's official delegation a Boeing 767 to travel to Israel for the relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a Guatemalan government official said Friday.

Guatemalan foreign minister Sandra Jovel said Adelson provided the plane last week to carry government officials and guests, including religious leaders. Jovel made the comments on radio show ConCriterio, ending days of speculation in Guatemala about who paid for the trip.

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Manfredo Marroquin, director of civil society organization Citizen Action, said President Jimmy Morales' administration violated Guatemalan law, which forbids accepting such gifts.

Guatemala's human rights prosecutor, Jordan Rodas, also said the arrangement with Adelson was concerning. "You don't know if what he's doing is laying the groundwork for personal interests," Rodas said. Jovel emphasized that Adelson did not have business interests in Guatemala.

Morales' decision to move Guatemala's embassy just two days after the U.S. did the same was seen by many as an attempt to curry favor with U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Morales has been battling aggressive prosecutors looking to investigate corruption allegations swirling around him. Local prosecutors are supported by a United Nations anti-corruption commission that is funded in part by the U.S.

Guatemala was one of seven countries to vote with the Trump administration and Israel on the Jerusalem embassy issue at the United Nations. The others were Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo.