Taiwan mum on bribery claims by Guatemala's ex-president

03/19/2014 11:38 PM
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Fromer Guatemala President Alfonso Portillo. (CNA file photo)
Fromer Guatemala President Alfonso Portillo. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, March 19 (CNA) Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday declined to comment on a case in which Guatemala's former president admitted to accepting bribes to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

"Since the case has entered the judicial process, we will not comment on it," ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao said, when asked about the matter.

Alfonso Portillo, who served as Guatemala's president from 2000 to 2004, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy charge and said he accepted US$2.5 million in bribes to continue diplomatic recognition of Taiwan when he became president, according to an AP report.

The 62-year-old pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy, in a federal court in New York City, the report said.

Portillo was extradited to the United States in May 2013 after a long fight in Guatemala's courts, which had cleared the former president of embezzlement charges, a Reuters report said.

U.S. prosecutors had accused Portillo of laundering millions of dollars which they said he embezzled from the Guatemalan government, including a sum of US$2.5 million from Taiwan's embassy in Guatemala that was intended to buy books for school libraries, Reuters reported.

But Portillo said the US$2.5 million was not intended for libraries, but rather represented "illegal payments from Taiwan," according to the Reuters report.

Although Kao did not comment directly on the Portillo case, she stressed that since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008, the Taiwan government has stuck strictly to three principles regarding its foreign aid programs.

The principles are seeking proper goals, acting lawfully and exercising effective administration, she said, rejecting the possibility of Taiwan offering money to maintain official ties with its diplomatic allies.

Guatemala is one of Taiwan's 22 diplomatic allies, which are mostly countries in Central America, Africa and the South Pacific.

(By Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/pc

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