Portillo On Trial

 Guatemala´s former President Alfonso Portillo went on trial in Guatemala City on Sept. 3 for allegedly stealing some $15 million from the Guatemalan Defense Ministry, and funneled the money to personal bank accounts in the United States and in France.

Portillo, who governed Guatemala from 2000 to 2004, fled for Mexico shortly after leaving office, but was extradited back to face the charges in 2008.

He was freed on bail, and early this year, was captured trying to flee to neighboring Belize.

Portillo ran under the Guatemala Republican Front, which was led by former military dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, whose 1982-83 government is known for some of the worst massacres and human rights atrocities during Guatemala´s more than three-decade civil war.

In late August, France lodged charges against Portillo for allegedly laundering $1.5 million through French bank accounts using the names of his relatives. The country also froze 491,000 euros in accounts believed to be linked to Portillo.

In January, a New York federal court filed charges against the former president for allegedly embezzling $1.5 million in donations meant for school books in Guatemala and channeling the money to foreign accounts. Prosecutors accuse Portillo of using the presidency as “his personal ATM.”

On Sept. 5, Guatemalan authorities captured Portillo´s ex-security minister Jacobo Salam Sánchez, in connection with the alleged graft.

 

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