Ex-Guatemala president extradited to US
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Ex-Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited on Friday to the United States to face charges of laundering $70 million in Guatemalan funds through U.S. bank accounts.
The former president was taken from a military hospital where he was recovering from liver surgery and a heart condition and put on a plane, according to his lawyer Mauricio Berreondo. He said the plane was bound for New York after a stop in Miami.
"I blame the government for what could happen to him," Berreondo said. "Portillo is sick and there are several pending appeals."
He said one appeal had to do with establishing the state of Portillo's health.
Portillo was taken out of the hospital on orders of Interior Secretary Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, Borreondo said.
An Associated Press reporter saw a small white jet carrying Portillo take off late morning local time.
"This decision is an important affirmation of the rule of law and due process in Guatemala," the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala said in a statement. "We commend the Guatemalan authorities in the strengthening of rule of law and the fight against organized crime and corruption."
Portillo, who was Guatemala's president from 2000-2004, was found not guilty in 2011 in Guatemala of charges that he stole $15 million from the country's Defense Department during his presidency.
In the U.S. case, Portillo allegedly deposited the money in Miami and transferred it to a Paris account in the name of his ex-wife and daughter.
He has called the proceedings a political reprisal by powerful Guatemalan businessmen and the U.S. government for not bending to their interests. He has also said the extradition request constituted a violation of his human rights.
Guatemala's highest court upheld the extradition last August after it was granted by former President Alvaro Colom as he left office in 2011.
Portillo was turned over in the same week that the high court threw out a genocide conviction against another ex-president, former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, a decision that has been widely questioned and criticized, including in the United States.
Guatemala has been struggling to build a credible justice system, including with the help of a U.N.-sanctioned team of international prosecutors.