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Ex-Guatemalan president extradited to U.S.

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
May 24, 2013 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo waves upon arrival in court in Guatemala City on January 31, 2013.
Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo waves upon arrival in court in Guatemala City on January 31, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited to the U.S.
  • The extradition had been approved in 2011, but only happened Friday
  • Portillo says his political enemies orchestrated the charges against him
  • He is accused of laundering millions of dollars

(CNN) -- Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo was extradited Friday to the United States, where he faces money laundering charges.

The leader of the Central American country from 2000 to 2004, Portillo has always denied the charges against him and says the accusations are based on the lies of political enemies seeking revenge.

He was arrested in 2010 and had unsuccessfully fought since then to prevent being sent to the United States.

Last week, Guatemala's Supreme Court denied a final appeal by Portillo.

The Guatemalan government and courts had authorized his extradition back in 2011, but the transfer did not happen until Friday.

In an interview with CNN en Español in January, Portillo accused right-wing political adversaries in the United States for the charges against him.

"In the United States, it is a revenge of the richest group of the American right. They are charging me for being the only president who did not support, with his signature nor with his permission, the invasion in Iraq," Portillo said. "So, I know that it is not only illegal. I know that it is eminently political, my detention in Guatemala."

But U.S. prosecutors have said it was Portillo who abused the political system, accusing him of using his authority to launder and misappropriate millions of dollars intended for his country's people.

An indictment unsealed in New York federal court accuses Portillo of embezzling tens of millions of dollars in public funds.

Journalist Miguel Salay and CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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