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Police moves to arrest ex-president on embezzlement charges

Guatemalan police hunted in vain for former president Alfonso Portillo (pictured), wanted for money-laundering and embezzlement charges, after the US filed to extradite him.

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AFP- Guatemalan police on Sunday sought to arrest former president Alfonso Portillo after the United States filed an extradition request to have him answer to money-laundering charges, court sources said.

Portillo fled to Mexico in 2005 after he lost his immunity from prosecution for alleged corruption during his 2000-2004 administration. In October 2008, he was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala, where he has been awaiting trial on embezzlement charges.

Police told AFP they searched for Portillo, 58, in his two homes in Guatemala City and his birthplace in eastern Zacapa, with no luck.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Portillo on Friday, after US officials in Florida presented an extradition request, local media said.

According to the reports, US investigators have amassed evidence that between 2001 and 2004 Portillo used US banks to launder some 60 million dollars before transferring the funds to Europe and the Bermudas.

The funds were moved to bank accounts held by Portillo's relatives, and investigators were looking into the possible complicity in the money-laundering scheme of "other members of (Portillo's) administration," the daily Prensa Libre said.

The public funds Portillo allegedly swindled were deposited in US banks including Citibank, Barcley Bank, Hamilton Bank and International Bank of Miami, the newspaper said.

Guatemala has accused Portillo of authorizing some 15 million dollars in transfers to Guatemala's Defense Department, where officials close to him allegedly took part of the money.

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