Whiskey, heroin, and kickbacks: the true face of Amcham Guatemala and Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote

Amcham Guatemala Company proudly describes itself as a proactive intermediary developing relations between Guatemala and the United States. According to the company, its main goals include supporting negotiations with government officials, assisting its partners and meeting the US Embassy representatives to discuss and find solutions to a variety of problems. But a real situation is slightly different.

Since 2012, Amcham Guatemala has been headed by Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote, a professional lawyer and the founder of Central Law. Photos with ministers, meeting with high American officials, and partitions on prestigious panels are used as a disguise to hide dubious transactions. 

juan pablo carrasco de groote
juan pablo carrasco de groote

During the daytime, the famous lawyer cultivates an image of a successful professional who relates to the high-ranking US officials and ministers of 5 local administrations. At night, visitors to a prestigious bar in the zone 14 can see Carrasco surrounded by pretty Colombian models with cocktail glasses.  

Drug trafficking, illegal mining licenses, provision of legal protection for organized criminal groups in Guatemala, including Frederico “Fred” Machado’s drug business, closed ports in Guatemala, and secret friendship with the outlawed prosecutor Sandoval – these are some of the topics that the Amcham Guatemala President Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote discusses with a cocktail. The truth is being gradually revealed – only a short time ago, the Court of Philadelphia included Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote in the list of suspects in the Federico Machado case.

Heroin airlines and theft licenses

Here is only a small part of what is known about the wrongdoing of Amcham Guatemala, its head Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote, and their relations to Frederico Machado. 

Frederico Machado, the owner of Minas del Pueblo, arrived in Guatemala disguising as a successful businessman who’d succeeded thanks to the Amcham Guatemala President Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote. The same “President” is known for having business relations with Central Law Company. On December 11, 2020, the law firm Central Law appointed David Scott Masters as the sole legal and administrative representative of Minas del Pueblo.  

The notary officer who signed this kind of registration is Aida Gabriela Trujillo Herrera. She also appears as a law agent of Central Law headed by Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote. According to the public registers, the Minas del Pueblo registration address coincides with the place of incorporation of Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote’s law firm. 

According to the documents of the trial No. 4: 20-CR-212 of the Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Federico Machado is accused of belonging to a criminal structure engaged in money laundering and drug trafficking. So far, eight people have been accused of transnational drug trafficking, money laundering, and financial crimes. 

The three trucks loaded with precious minerals extracted at a mine in Chiquimula and seized on January 23 gave the alarm. Minas del Pueblo Company owned by Machado and technically operating in another area of the country, would have started its activities in Chiquimula. Without obtaining a mining license and not deceiving the Chiquimula commune. According to the mayor’s office, Minas del Pueblo assured that would build a gallery to protect the materials.  

Machado is also involved in illegal operations with drug-trafficking planes in a few Latin American countries. According to the criminal indictment, some of these planes were later used by drug cartels in such countries as Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to transport large volumes of cocaine to the United States. 

By different estimates, Federico Machado managed to achieve amazing total results: $350 million from drug trafficking-related illegal operations all over the globe. The exact amount, which Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote could help to obtain, hasn’t been revealed. 

The Texas indictment says Machado sought investors to finance purchasing of planes that later flew southward. “Investors made deposits to companies that later allocated money to the fields unrelated to the planes.” Machado and his crime associates managed to defraud around $560 million from their investors.

“Machado attracted investors to purchase planes that never existed, which had been going on since 2016,” the document says. It seems that Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote, the most prominent Amcham Guatemala President, acted as a perfect “American” friend to complete the illegal conspiracy.

Illegal ports, gifts, and fines

Amcham Guatemala
Amcham Guatemala

Solid reputation and relations gained thanks to his position at Amcham Guatemala helped Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote become the gateway to the “high-end club” of international investors. At early 2014, Carrasco met a famous Swiss friend of Perez Molina and Baldetti – Jurg Widmer Probst. 

Even though he has been fleeing from justice since June 2016, the companies belonging to Swiss businessman Jurg Widmer Probst still receive gifts such as rich clients, as well as stay in touch with the government. 

Even years after revealing the fact of bribing governmental and political structures with millions of dollars, which Perez Molina and Roxana Baldetti performed through their personal secretary Juan Carlos Monson. 

One of the Probst companies’ fate seems to be decided by a new tender, which will bring at least $273 million to the winning company. 

On August 1, the port company Santo Tomas de Castilla (Empornac) requested “to conclude a contract for providing specialized services for loading and unloading ships with mobile and multipurpose port cranes in the docks of the port.” 

This all aimed at replacing the cranes that are currently working on the site owned by Caribe Gru company – one of a variety of companies associated with Probst and included in the Interport group, which has been operating in the above-mentioned state port for 20 years. 

The tender rules were adapted and specified in such a way that only one company could become the winner due to the attached specifications and requirements that only Caribe Gru could meet. Years later, the contract drawn up by Carrasco the lawyer, which allowed Probst to penetrate into a part of the port facade and install a temporary dock, was declared harmful to the national interests. 

This has resulted from particular violations: operations through a legal entity that doesn’t correspond to the nature of the above-mentioned contract and no records of this administrative procedure in the State Asset Department of the Ministry of Public Finance.

Obrerdrecht, FECI and Sandoval

The Obrerdrecht case created chaos in Latin America, with Guatemala being no exception. But only few people know that the lawyer who represented Obrerdrech in Guatemala and negotiated the underhanded cooperation agreement between Obrerdrecht and former prosecutor Sandoval is no other than Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote. Who’s now a partner of Central Law and Amcham Guatemala. 

The signing of this agreement laid the basis for criminal charges against Sandoval; the former state general prosecutor Anabella Morfin claimed that Sandoval’s actions were illegal since the prosecutor’s office and to a lesser extent Sandoval himself was in charge of negotiating economic issues and contracts on inflicted damage. 

Guatemala lost millions in total, and Sandoval together with Carrasco saved money for the Brazilian who paid millions of dollars as a compensation to other countries in the region. Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote – a devotee of fighting against corruption and a defender of the rights to freedom and transparency of the northern country – seems to stick to these ideals only when speaking on various boards as a representative of Amcham Guatemala.