N.Y. U.S. Atty Charges ex-Guatemala Pres. With Money Laundering Stolen Cash

Ex-Pres. Portillo
Ex-Pres. Portillo

Update Tues: 4:10 p.m.: The U.S Attorney’s Office announced that President Alfonso Portillo, who had been on the run, was arrested this afternoon in the Guatemalan state of  Izabal.

By Allan Lengel

New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  said former Guatemala President Alfonso Portillo — who is on the run — had converted the presidency into “his personal ATM.”

That pointed remark accompanied an announcement on Monday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had indicted Portillo for embezzling millions of dollars from charities and government coffers and laundering the money in American and European banks.

“Alfonso Portillo is charged with converting the office of the Guatemalan presidency into his personal ATM,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

He served as president from 2000 to 2004.

“Through various alleged embezzlement schemes, including one which involved $1.5 million intended for Guatemalan school children, Portillo abused the trust of his nation’s people. Our Office remains committed, along with our law enforcement partners at the DEA and the IRS, to prosecuting those who use American banks and financial

institutions to launder the ill-gotten gains of their crimes. No matter who you are, if you use our financial system to launder your dirty cash, we will follow the money trail to your door.”

Portillo, 58, had already been facing embezzlement charges in his own country. Police and military have been unable to find him, and his lawyer told the Associated Press he would not surrender because this matter is a political, not judicial one.

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