Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited on Friday to the United States to face money laundering charges, the US embassy in Guatemala said. A US grand jury decided in 2009 that Portillo, who was in office from 2000 to 2004, should face charges that he laundered 70 million dollars through US banks.
A Guatemalan court cleared Portillo of local embezzlement charges in May 2011. But the country's Supreme Court later endorsed an extradition request by the United States that Portillo face money laundering charges, in a decision rubber-stamped by then-President Alvaro Colom.
Portillo defeated an attempt earlier this year by Guatemala's attorney general to overturn his exoneration, but he was unable to defeat the U.S. request for his extradition.
This decision is an important affirmation of the rule of law and due process in Guatemala, the US embassy said in a statement.
Local authorities picked Portillo up in the morning from a military hospital where he was receiving treatment for liver problems. Portillo was transferred to the hospital in April from a Guatemalan jail where he had been held pending a decision on the extradition.
Portillo's lawyers said police put the former president on a plane headed for New York.
They showed up at the hospital, said, 'get dressed, put on this shirt and we are taking you to the Air Force base,' attorney Mauricio Berreondo told reporters just before the flight took off.
The US grand jury's indictment claims Portillo, 61, laundered government money through US and European accounts. French prosecutors are also investigating the allegation.