San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Guatemala to seize disgraced ex-leader's bank accounts in Europe

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala is seeking to confiscate European bank accounts linked to former president Alfonso Portillo, a court official said Friday, the day after a U.S. court sentenced him to nearly six years for corruption.

The Guatemala government has asked judicial authorities to freeze accounts in Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, which authorities here believe total about three million euros (around $4 million).

Marco Antonio Villeda, the judge in Guatemala in charge of the case against Portillo, said the accounts are in the names of the former leader’s ex-wife and his daughter.

Portillo was sentenced in New York on Thursday to five years and 10 months in prison, and was also ordered to repay $2.5 million.

He was extradited to the United States from his home country a year ago, and pleaded guilty in March to trying to launder through U.S. banks bribes Taiwan paid to Guatemala.

The bribes were aimed at getting the Central American nation to offer diplomatic recognition to Taipei over Beijing.

By entering a guilty plea and agreeing to re-pay to the United States the bribes received from Taiwan, he avoided a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The disgraced former president, who led Guatemala between 2000 and 2004, has been detained since January 2010.

Counting time already served, he is expected to serve only another year and a half in prison, a US court ruled.

Still unresolved is whether Portillo will serve the remainder of his prison term in the United States or Guatemala, as requested by the defense.

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