Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala ex-President Alfonso Portillo freed from US jail

Alfonso Portillo at the UN in 2001 Image copyright AP
Image caption Portillo addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 2001

Former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo has been released from prison in the US, after serving a sentence for taking in bribes from Taiwan.

At his trial last year he pleaded guilty to attempting to launder $2.5m (£1.6m) in US banks.

Portillo said he had taken the money in exchange for a promise that Guatemala would continue to recognise Taiwan.

He was in office between 2000 and 2004. After his release he flew to Guatemala where he still enjoys support.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of Portillo's supporters went to meet him at the La Aurora airport, in Guatemala City.
Image copyright AP
Image caption Portillo described his time in jail as "a big learning experience"

Alfonso Portillo, now 63, was arrested in 2010 on embezzlement charges.

He was extradited to the US in 2013 and sentenced a year later by a New York judge.

Federal prosecutors accused him of using US financial institutions to launder money.

He was ordered to return the $2.5m he received illegally from Taiwan and was sent to a minimum-security prison in Denver, Colorado.

Taiwan has significant financial ties to a number of Central American and Caribbean countries that reject China's claims to sovereignty of the island.

Former Salvadorean President Francisco Flores is facing similar allegations in his home country.

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