HomeNewsBriefGuatemala Ex-President Pleads Guilty to Corruption, Money Laundering
BRIEF

Guatemala Ex-President Pleads Guilty to Corruption, Money Laundering

ELITES AND CRIME / 19 MAR 2014 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Former Guatemala President Alfonso Portillo has pleaded guilty to charges of accepting bribes and money laundering before a New York court, a turn of events that could spell trouble for corrupt Guatemalan elites accustomed to enjoying impunity for their crimes.

On March 18, Portillo -- who was president from 2000 to 2004 -- admitted in Federal District Court in Manhattan to accepting $2.5 million in bribes from Taiwanese officials in exchange for diplomatic recognition, reported Prensa Libre.

Portillo said he accepted the bribes between December 1999 and August 2002, transferring the money to US bank accounts in Miami and Washington DC through Guatemalan banks. "I knew that what I was doing was wrong and I'm sorry for my crimes, I take responsibility for them and I accept the consequences of my actions," Portillo stated in court.

The admission is apparently the result of a plea bargain, the terms of which remain unclear. Portillo is expected to receive a prison sentence of four to six years and will likely be deported back to Guatemala following the completion of his sentence. Sentencing is scheduled for June 23.

InSight Crime Analysis

Portillo's admission of guilt follows a long saga in which he has previously avoided prosecution and conviction. He first fled to Mexico in 2004 to escape charges in Guatemala, only to be extradited back in 2008. Although freed on bail, the United Nations' International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) began building a case against Portillo and he was arrested again in 2010 as he attempted to board a boat and flee the country.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

However, despite strong evidence that he stole $15 million from the Defense Ministry during his presidency, he was acquitted in May 2011. Nevertheless, a Guatemalan court ruled in November 2011 that he should be extradited to the US to face further charges, and Portillo arrived there in May 2013.

Portillo's acquittal in Guatemala was seen as a huge failure of the CICIG and Guatemala's justice system. His admission of guilt and prosecution in the United States will now have many among Guatemala's elites looking over their shoulders.

While the details of Portillo's deal with US prosecutors remains unknown, it is possible it involves providing evidence about criminal networks within the government and upper echelons of Guatemalan society. Among them are the Illegal Clandestine Security Apparatuses (CIACS) -- networks built around the country's intelligence apparatus during the 30 year civil war that ended in 1996, which subsequently established themselves as a powerful criminal presence.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 18 DEC 2020

A recent police raid in the eastern part of El Salvador, in which a mayor and several municipal and judicial…

ELITES AND CRIME / 6 MAR 2018

The recent arrest of one of the alleged intellectual authors of the murder of renowned environmental activist Berta Cáceres…

ELITES AND CRIME / 17 DEC 2015

US authorities have blacklisted two media outlets linked to the mysterious Mexico drug cartel Los Cuinis, an action that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.