Image: Alfonso Portillo
Eitan Abramovich  /  AFP/Getty Images
Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo talks to reporters as he arrives at court in Guatemala City on Tuesday. Portillo was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala, where he faces corruption charges.
updated 10/7/2008 6:05:21 PM ET 2008-10-07T22:05:21

Mexico extradited former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo on Tuesday, sending him home to face corruption charges.

Guatemalan Attorney General Amilcar Velazquez told The Associated Press that Portillo arrived early Tuesday on a Mexican government plane.

Portillo was Guatemala's leader from 2000 to 2004 before fleeing to Mexico. He is accused of authorizing $15 million in transfers to Guatemala's Defense Department, where officials close to him allegedly pocketed most of the cash.

He denied the charges during an appearance before a judge hours after his return to Guatemala.

"In order to prove fraud, one must show that the accused had control over the money and we have account receipts from the controller general showing the president was not in charge of any funds," he said.

The judge will decide whether to send Portillo to prison or release him on bail.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department ordered Portillo extradited in 2006, but he fought the order for years. His lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that the agency didn't have the constitutional authority to decide extraditions. The court disagreed, but Portillo's extradition still inched through the Mexican legal and diplomatic system.

In the end, Portillo sent the Mexican government a letter on Friday saying he would no longer fight extradition, according to a statement by the federal Attorney General's Office.

Day in court
In a brief statement to reporters, Portillo said he was innocent. He said he decided to return home and face justice because he trusts the courts under the government of President Alvaro Colom more than under the administration of former President Oscar Berger.

"They savagely and indiscriminately hunted me for four and a half years," he said of Berger's government.

Colom took office in January and has said little about Portillo's case.

Portillo came to Mexico days after leaving office, got a work visa and began working as a financial adviser for a construction materials company. He remained free while in Mexico.

Velazquez said officials were examining extradition treaties to see if additional charges could be brought against Portillo.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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