Guatemala president moves to extradite former leader

GUATEMALA CITY Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:11pm EST

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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo will be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges, the country's president said Tuesday.

A U.S. grand jury decided two years ago that the president who ruled from 2000 to 2004 should answer charges that he laundered $70 million through U.S. banks.

A Guatemala court in May cleared Portillo of embezzlement charges but the Supreme Court in August endorsed the former leader's extradition.

"We have decided to extradite (Portillo) and guarantee due process of law," center-left President Alvaro Colom told journalists.

The U.S. grand jury's indictment claims Portillo, 60, laundered government money through European accounts and French prosecutors are also investigating the allegations.

Portillo, who took office promising to redistribute wealth in the poverty-plagued Central American country, fled Guatemala for Mexico shortly after completing his term in 2004. He was extradited from Mexico to Guatemala in 2008 to stand trial.

(This version corrects paragraph 3 to say charges were embezzlement, not money laundering)

(Reporting by Mike McDonald)

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