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Extradition approved for Guatemalan ex-president

The Americas Post - Another former president heads off to jail. Photo Credit: Prensa Libre

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom announced Tuesday approval of a U.S. extradition order for former president Alfonso Portillo, who faces money laundering charges for the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million in foreign donations.

Colom said Guatemalan courts have already approved Portillo’s extradition and that he will respect those rulings.

“The president should not get mixed up in the decisions of judges and justices,” Colom said. The nation’s  supreme court approved the extradition request in August.

Portillo is charged in a New York federal court with money laundering and embezzling $1.5 million donated by Taiwan to buy schoolbooks for Guatemalan children. He allegedly deposited the money in Miami and transferred it to a Paris account in the name of his ex-wife and daughter.

After leaving office in 2004, Portillo fled to Mexico where he was granted a work visa to serve as financial adviser for a construction materials company.

He was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008 to face the embezzlement charges at home and remained free until his arrest on Jan. 26, 2010.   Portillo was captured at a beach preparing to flee Guatemala by sea.

Colom did not specify a date for the extradition. The remaining administrative processes could take several months.