[JURIST] Former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official site] on Tuesday. He is charged [indictment, PDF] with having laundered more than $70 million through US banks during his four years as president. Portillo was extradited to the US after being acquitted in Guatemala [JURIST report]. Portillo has always claimed innocence and blames political extremists for what he calls false accusations. If convicted, Portillo faces up to 20 years [Reuters report] in prison.
In 2011 the criminal charges of embezzlement [JURIST report] against Portillo were thrown out by the lower Guatemalan court, which found that prosecutors had failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that Portillo was personally involved in the embezzlement of Guatemala's Ministry of Defense [official website, in Spanish] funds. The extradition was approved [JURIST report] in March 2010.