NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal grand jury in New York has indicted former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo for money laundering, alleging he embezzled tens of millions of public dollars that he washed through foreign and local banks.
The charges were unsealed on Monday, a day after authorities in Guatemala searched for the former president at several of his properties on an extradition request from the United States. His whereabouts remain unknown.
The grand jury suspects Portillo, who was president from 2000 to 2004, of diverting $1.5 million of donations by the Taiwanese government from a program called “Libraries for Peace” to accounts controlled by friends and family, among other accusations.
The indictment also alleges Portillo embezzled at least $3.9 million from the Guatemalan Defense Ministry that was laundered through the national mortgage bank Credito Hipotecario Nacional (CHN) by abusing his oversight powers with the bank, and through a Guatemalan company called Confia.
“Portillo embezzled money from the Guatemalan government and made a number of fraudulent transactions through CHN and other Guatemalan banks to enrich himself and his co-conspirators,” the indictment said, adding that ill-gotten funds were also funneled through bank accounts in the United States and Europe.
The co-conspirators were not identified.
Portillo, who also faces corruption charges in Guatemala, won office promising to redistribute wealth. He fled the country shortly after his four-year presidential term ended in 2004 and spent the next four years in Mexico.
He was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008 to face charges he embezzled millions of dollars of public money during his presidency.