NEW YORK, USA -- Alfonso Portillo, the former president of Guatemala, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court to laundering millions of dollars through bank accounts located in the United States.
Portillo, who served as the president of Guatemala from January 14, 2000, to January 14, 2004, arrived in the Southern District of New York on May 24, 2013, after being extradited to the United States by the government of Guatemala. Portillo pleaded guilty to the sole charge in the indictment.
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Former President Alfonso Portillo may have thought his position of power prevented him from having to answer for accepting multi-million dollar bribes to shape his country’s foreign policy, for embezzling money intended to benefit the Guatemalan people, and for using US banks to launder the ill-gotten funds. But he was wrong. With his guilty plea today, Portillo now stands convicted in an American court for his criminal conduct. This Office will aggressively pursue and prosecute individuals, irrespective of their position or title, if they engage in violations of US laws.”
According to the indictment and Portillo’s guilty plea on Tuesday:
From December 1999 through August 2002, while serving as president of Guatemala, Portillo received $2.5 million in bribery payments from the government of Taiwan. In his plea allocution, Portillo stated, “I understood that, in exchange for these payments, I would use my influence to have Guatemala continue to recognize Taiwan diplomatically.” Knowing that the $2.5 million was the proceeds of illegal payments from Taiwan, Portillo conspired with others to launder the $2.5 million through bank accounts located in the United States. Portillo also stated that he and others had the illegally obtained funds “carried from Guatemala to the United States” and then deposited them into the US accounts.
The $2.5 million in payments consisted of five checks provided by the government of Taiwan’s Embassy in Guatemala. Three of the checks, totaling $1.5 million, were issued in 2000, and were endorsed personally by Portillo. Portillo then caused the checks to be deposited in a bank account in Miami, Florida. Two additional checks totaling $1 million were issued in 2002 and were made payable to a company known as Oxxy Financial Corp. (“Oxxy Financial”). These two checks were deposited at the International Bank of Miami, in an account held by Oxxy Financial. According to Portillo, these and other transactions were “designed, in part, to conceal and disguise the source and ownership of the money.” More than $1.5 million of the Taiwanese payments received by Portillo were ultimately deposited into bank accounts in the name of Portillo’s former wife and daughter at Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (“BBVA”) in Paris, France. Money transferred into the BBVA accounts was further laundered through financial institutions in Luxembourg and Switzerland, among other places.
Portillo, 62, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of the greater of $500,000, or twice the value of the monetary instruments or funds involved in the money laundering transactions. Portillo will be sentenced on June 23, 2014. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.