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Guatemala court approves extradition of ex-president to US

[JURIST] A Guatemalan criminal court ruled Wednesday that former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish] can be extradited to the US to face charges of money laundering [indictment; press release, PDF]. Portillo, who was president of Guatemala from 2000 to 2004, has been charged in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on information provided by former members of Portillo's government. He is accused of taking $15.8 million from funds designated for the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense and siphoning it into bank accounts in Europe and Bermuda. The former president maintains he is not guilty [BBC report] of any of the charges. Portillo might face corruption charges [AFP report] in Guatemala before being extradited. Portillo's lawyers plan to appeal [La Prensa report, in Spanish] the extradition order.

Portillo was arrested [BBC report] in January following an arrest warrant issued by Guatemala [JURIST report] based on the US indictment. In 2008, Portillo was extradited [JURIST report] back to Guatemala from Mexico, where he had fled after his immunity expired along with his term in office. The extradition order was first signed [JURIST report] in 2006, but Portillo challenged it until the Mexican Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] ruled against him in January 2008. Numerous members of Portillo's cabinet were arrested and tried on fraud charges during his time in exile.

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