Guatemalan Police Arrest Ex-President Indicted in NY

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Tuesday, Jan 26, 2010  |  Updated 3:17 PM EDT
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Guatemalan Police Arrest Ex-President Indicted in NY

AP

Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo after being extradited from Mexico to face corruption charges in Guatemala City, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. Portillo was Guatemala's leader from 2000 to 2004 before fleeing to Mexico.

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Guatemalan police have captured fugitive former President Alfonso Portillo a day after he was indicted in a New York court on money laundering charges.

Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez says agents arrested Portillo on Tuesday during a raid on a northern ranch.

Portillo was indicted in New York Monday on charges he embezzled tens of millions of dollars from his country and allegedly funneled it through banks in the United States and Europe.

Alfonso Portillo, who oversaw Guatemala's two national banks, allegedly stole the money from 2000 through 2003, Federal prosecutors said -- noting that among the money stolen were funds meant to support the "Libraries for Peace" program. 

Investigators said checks totaling more than $1.5 million sent to Guatemala from Taiwan for that educational project instead wound up in Portillo's personal accounts.

Officials said other stolen funds were wired to accounts in Paris belonging to Portillo's former wife. More accounts were found in Lichtenstein, officials said, with some of the money allegedly coming from Guatemalan Ministry of Defense accounts.

Prosecutors said charges were filed in New York because some of the stolen money was wired through banks based in New York.  

Portillo served as president from 2000 - 2004. News reports from that time indicate he vowed to clean up official corruption when he took office. But allegations his administration looted up to $1 billion in Guatemala funds surfaced later.

A spokeswoman for the Guatemalan Embassy said her office was reviewing the charges as well as trying to find a contact for Portillo's attorney. In 2004, Portillo and others from his cabinet were charged with corruption in Guatemala.

At the time, he was extradited from Mexico to his home country for trial but US officials say as of now he remains at large.

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