[JURIST] Former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo [CIDOB profile, in Spanish; JURIST news archive] was released from a US prison on Wednesday after serving a sentence for taking bribes from Taiwan. Federal prosecutors charged Portillo with using US banks and institutions to launder money. Portillo was arrested in 2010 on embezzlement charges and extradited to the US in 2013, where he pleaded guilty last March to laundering $ 2.5 million through US banks. Portillo claimed he took the money from Taiwanese officials in exchange for assurances that Guatemala would continue to recognize Taiwan and reject China’s claim of sovereignty over the island. A federal judge sentenced Portillo in New York, and he served his time at a minimum-security prison in Denver. Portillo was sentenced to five years and 10 months last May [Reuters report], but because he had already spent more than four years in jail since his arrest in 2010, his jail time was shortened. He served as president of Guatemala from 2000 to 2004 and still has many supporters in his country.
The legal saga of former president Portillo has been ongoing for more than six years. Portillo had pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to money laundering charges in the District Court in May 2013. He was charged [indictment, PDF] with having laundered more than $70 million through US banks during his four years as president. In 2011 the criminal charges of embezzlement [JURIST report] against Portillo were thrown out by the lower Guatemalan 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. Portillo was arrested [BBC report] in January 2011 following an arrest warrant issued by Guatemala [JURIST report] based on the US indictment. In 2008 Portillo was extradited [JURIST report] to Guatemala from Mexico, where he had fled after his immunity expired along with his term in office.