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Guatemala authorizes extradition of former president to U.S.

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:25 PM EST, Tue November 15, 2011
A U.S. indictment alleges Alfonso Portillo embezzled money with co-conspirators from about 2000 through about 2003.
A U.S. indictment alleges Alfonso Portillo embezzled money with co-conspirators from about 2000 through about 2003.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Guatemalan judges in August said former President Alfonso Portillo could be extradited
  • Guatemala's president says he respects separation of powers and upholds decision
  • Portillo is accused of laundering $70 million through U.S. banks
  • He has repeatedly denied the accusations

Guatemala City, Guatemala (CNN) -- Guatemala's president has authorized the extradition of former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo to face money-laundering charges in the United States, state media reported Tuesday.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom revealed his decision to reporters Tuesday, saying he had decided to allow the extradition because he respected the separation of powers. Guatemala's Constitutional Court has also authorized the extradition.

"The president should not put his hands on the decisions of judges and magistrates," Colom said, according to the state-run AGN news agency.

Portillo, who was president of the Central American nation from 2000 to 2004, is accused of laundering $70 million through U.S. banks. He has repeatedly denied the accusations.

"We have maintained since the beginning that this is political persecution and it is easy to show it," Telesforo Guerra, Portillo's attorney, told CNN en EspaƱol in August.

In August judges in Guatemala's Constitutional Court upheld a previous court ruling authorizing the extradition of the former president and denied an appeal presented by his defense.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala welcomed the court's decision in August.

"We applaud the efforts made by the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General's Office and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala," the embassy said in a written statement. "This sends a strong message that nobody is above the law."

The U.S. indictment alleges Portillo embezzled the money with co-conspirators from about 2000 through about 2003.

Journalist Patzy Vasquez and CNN's Krupskaia Alis contributed to this report.

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