U.S. sentences Guatemala ex-pres. to 5 years for money laundering

New York, May 22 (EFE).- Guatemalan former President Alfonso Portillo was sentenced here Thursday to five years and 10 months behind bars for money laundering, federal prosecutors said.

Portillo was extradited to New York in May 2013 from Guatemala to face charges of conspiring to launder money he obtained illegally during his 2000-2004 mandate.

Having initially denied the accusations, he entered a guilty plea in March after reaching an agreement with prosecutors.

Besides the jail time, Portillo will have to return the $2.5 million he accepted as a bribe from the government of Taiwan so that Guatemala would maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei as well as pay a fine of up to $500,000.

Portillo laundered the money from the bribes in U.S. and European banks.

The plea agreement allowed him to avoid what could have been a 20-year prison term.

Portillo, 62, had received the money from Taiwan between December 1999 - weeks before he assumed the presidency - and August 2002, and the $2.5 million was paid to him in five checks.

Of those funds, $1.5 million were deposited in accounts that Portillo, his wife and daughter had in Spain's BBVA bank in Paris and part of that money was later laundered through banks in Switzerland, Luxembourg and other places.