Past Specialty Coffee Association of America board president Max Quirin is one of 17 people currently awaiting trial in Guatemala following a high-profile arrest in March.
The arrest and detainment have shocked many people in the coffee world, where Quirin is widely regarded as a conscientious and principled ambassador for Guatemalan coffee and international relations development in the specialty coffee sector.
Quirin, who served as SCAA board president in 2012-13 and is also past president of the Guatemalan National Coffee Growers Association (ANACAFE), has been implicated in the case involving an allegedly illegal government contract given to the Guatemalan branch of the Mexican private drug company Pisa that prosecutors say led to the deaths of at least 13 dialysis patients. Numerous high-profile civic and political leaders, including Guatemalan central bank president Julio Suárez, have also been implicated.
Quirin is involved through his role on the board of the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS). Prosecutors say IGSS leaders charged illicit commissions and performed influence trafficking in the process of issuing the approximately $14.5 million contract to Pisa. The entire IGSS board was arrested.
The case is one of several government-related corruption cases currently unfolding in Guatemala, where embattled president Otto Pérez Molina was denied a plea for presidential immunity by the country’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday, June 30. Molina is facing numerous graft allegations, and one of his aids has also been implicated in the IGSS/Pisa case.
Quirin and the 16 others have been in holding cells since late May, awaiting a trial that was scheduled for July 27 after a judge approved the prosecution’s request to gather evidence for an additional 45 days.
SCAA Executive Director Ric Rhinehart, who has worked with Quirin in various capacities over the past eight years, described him as a skilled board member and close friend.
“Max is an exceptionally honorable man,” said Rhinehart, who spoke with Daily Coffee News on the condition that his comments be presented as his own, rather than as official comments from the SCAA. “I’ve never once seen Max do anything but the right thing from an ethical viewpoint.”
ANACAFE board member Juan Luis Barrios shared a similar sentiment in a recent Global Coffee Report story, saying, “Max is a colleague of mine and someone I consider an extremely honorable man.”
We’ll have more as this story develops.