Guatemala agrees to U.S. extradition of ex-President

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 26, 2011 9:09 PM
Guatemala agrees to U.S. extradition of ex-President

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala's Constitutional Court Friday ratified the extradition of former President Alfonso Portillo to the United States, where he faces money laundering charges.

Portillo, who was president from 2000 to 2004, is accused of laundering $70 million through U.S. banks.

"This court has voted unanimously to deny the appeal by Alfonso Antonio Portillo Cabrera and consequently the extradition order to the United States holds firm," said Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre, president of the court.

No date has been set for the extradition, which also must be approved by President Alvaro Colom.

The court recommended that Portillo, currently under house arrest, be moved to a detention center until Colom makes a decision on the case.

A federal grand jury in New York requested Portillo's extradition in January, claiming he and a team of co-conspirators embezzled Guatemalan public funds and hid the money in offshore accounts.

The U.S. grand jury's indictment claims Portillo, 59, also laundered money through European accounts and French prosecutors are investigating the allegations.

In May, a Guatemalan court dismissed charges from the country's Public Ministry that the former head of state stole $15 million from the military in 2001.

Portillo, who took office promising to redistribute wealth in the poverty-plagued Central American country, fled Guatemala for Mexico shortly after completing his term in 2004. He was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008 to stand trial.

(Reporting by Mike McDonald; editing by Todd Eastham)