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Guatemala appeals court upholds acquittal of former president Portillo

An appeals court in Guatemala City announced Tuesday that it has upheld a lower court decision which acquitted former President Alfonso Portillo of criminal charges that he had stolen over USD $15 million during his time as president. In 2011 the criminal charges of embezzlement [JURIST report] against Portillo were thrown out by the lower court, which found that prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that Portillo was personally involved in the embezzlement of Guatemala's Ministry of Defense [official website, in Spanish] funds. The appeals court rejected [El Periodico report, in Spanish] the government's appeal, finding that the lower court ruling was not in error.

Though the decision of the Guatemala court concludes this case against Portillo, he still faces extradition [JURIST report] to the US to face money laundering charges. Upon extradition Portillo will stand trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on charges of laundering US$1.5 million [AP report] in Taiwanese foreign donations, which were supposed to be used to buy schoolbooks for Guatemalan children. Instead Portillo allegedly deposited the funds in various banks for his personal use. His extradition to the US was approved [JURIST report] by a Guatemalan criminal court in March 2010.

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