Ex-Guatemala leader who admitted bribe gets nearly 6 years jail

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison yesterday after admitting to taking $2.5 million in bribes from Taiwan and laundering funds through U.S. banks.

The sentence, delivered by U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson in New York, ensures the fallen leader will remain incarcerated beyond the more than four years his lawyers said he has already served since his arrest in 2010.

Portillo, 62, served as president of Guatemala from 2000 to 2004. He was extradited to the United States in May 2013 after a years-long fight and after Guatemalan courts had cleared him on local embezzlement charges.

At a hearing in New York that drew a crowd of Portillo’s political supporters and family, Patterson also ordered him to forfeit $2.5 million. Patterson said Portillo had abused his position in committing his crimes.

“The case has importance in how we treat violations of laws against corruption,” Patterson said.

U.S. authorities initially accused Portillo of laundering tens of millions of dollars embezzled from the Guatemalan government, including $2.5 million provided by Taiwan’s embassy in Guatemala.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez made a brief statement after the news, saying the government would see whether the sentence would be cut for the time Portillo had already spent in custody.

“I understand the defense will try to reduce the stay in prison to 11 months, but we’ll have to wait for the judge’s decision,” he told reporters in the north of Guatemala.

In March, Portillo pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering conspiracy. But he said the $2.5 million was actually a bribe from Taiwan in exchange for Guatemala’s continued diplomatic recognition.

China says Taiwan has no right to recognition as it is part of China. The two have been governed separately since 1949.

Only 22 countries maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including the tiny Pacific island states of Nauru and Palau, as well as Vatican City, Paraguay, Panama, Haiti, Nicaragua and Belize.

Adam Fee, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in court that Portillo had “put a dollar value on his country’s diplomacy.”

Portillo, dressed in a dark suit and a purple tie, asked Patterson “for your forgiveness for my actions, for my mistakes, and for my crime.”

In a lengthy speech, Portillo highlighted financial, tax and education reforms he instituted in Guatemala, as well as higher wages.

“All men make mistakes as well as achievements in life,” he said. “At the end of a man’s life what matters is how the good deeds balance against the bad.”

Lawyers for Portillo have in court papers said he was far from the only Guatemalan or Central American leader to receive gifts or bribes from Taiwan.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office said yesterday current Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou rejects “checkbook diplomacy.”

It was unclear how much more time Portillo would spend in prison, or where he would be incarcerated. David Rosenfield, Portillo’s lawyer, said he would seek credit for the 4-1/3 years he has served since January 2010 and ask to have his client transferred to Guatemala.

Latest in World News

Boris Johnson

Ex-London mayor Johnson abruptly quits race to be prime minister

LONDON, (Reuters) – Former London mayor Boris Johnson abruptly pulled out of the race to become Britain’s next prime minister today, in a shock move that upturned a political order shaken by last week’s vote to leave the European Union.

(L-R) Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama pose for family photo at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

North America leaders mount strong defence of trade despite threats

OTTAWA,  (Reuters) – Canada, the United States and Mexico yesterday mounted a fierce defence of free trade, vowing to deepen economic ties despite an increasingly acrimonious debate about the value of globalization.

default placeholder

Obama urges Venezuela to respect democratic process

OTTAWA, (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday urged the Venezuelan government to respect the democratic process and the rule of law, including allowing the release of political prisoners.

default placeholder

Six Honduran police officers indicted on U.S. drug charges

NEW YORK,  (Reuters) – Six members of the Honduran National Police were indicted yesterday on U.S. charges they participated in drug trafficking activities and conspired with a son of former Honduras President Porfirio Lobo to import cocaine into the United States.

default placeholder

China risks ‘outlaw’ status if it rejects South China Sea ruling -lawyer

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – An international ruling next month is expected to deprive China of any legal basis for its claim to most of the South China Sea, and Beijing risks being seen as an “outlaw state” unless it respects the outcome, the Philippines’ chief lawyer in the case said yesterday.

default placeholder

Fresh details spur debate on police response to Orlando massacre

(Reuters) – The release of police dispatch records offering new details from witnesses of the Orlando nightclub massacre provided fresh grist yesterday for the debate about whether law enforcement waited too long to take out the gunman.

default placeholder

India’s top court to consider intervening in Muslim ‘triple talaq’ divorce law

NEW DELHI,  (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – India’s Supreme Court said it will examine how far it could interfere in Muslim laws governing family-related issues as it heard a plea to end a practice allowing Muslim men to divorce their wives by saying “talaq” three times.

Malala Yousafzai

Price of fame: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala joins millionaires’ club

LONDON,  (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage education activist who survived a near-fatal attack by the Taliban, and her family have become millionaires in under four years due to sales of a book about her life and appearances on the global speaker circuit.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: