Sat, Feb 12, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Mission denies Portillo payoff

BRIBERY PROBE The ambassador in Guatemala said that Taiwan gave that nation's president a personal check for US$500,000 for the production of 'teachers' manuals'

DPA , TAIPEI

The government has denied it gave former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo US$500,000, saying the money was donated to the Guatemalan government to print teachers' manuals, the Central News Agency (CNA) reported yesterday.

"Our government made the donation in June 2000 at the request of Guatemala," Taiwanese ambassador to Guatemala Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) was quoted as saying.

"If Guatemalan prosecutors want to investigate if the cash was really used to print teachers' manuals, our embassy is willing to cooperate with the probe," he said.

As to why the check was made out to Portillo personally, Ou said it was done at the request of the Guatemalan government.

After the donation, the Guatemalan government gave several copies of the teachers' manuals to the embassy as proof that the money had been used to print the manuals, CNA said in a dispatch from Guatemala City.

Portillo was Guatemala's president from 2000 to last year.

He fled to Mexico last February as prosecutors were probing if government funds had been funneled into Panamanian bank accounts held by Portillo, a charge which the former president denies.

Guatemalan press reported on the controversial donation on Thursday, prompting Ou to make the clarification to CNA.

The bribery allegation is the latest suspected bribery scandal involving Taiwan and Latin American leaders in recent months.

In another scandal, former Costa Rican president Miguel Angel Rodriguez was accused of receiving US$200,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001 and another US$200,000 in 2002 from Taiwan's embassy.

Prosecutors in Costa Rica launched an investigation in October last year.

Taiwan has denied having made personal donations to Rodriguez, claiming that the money was government-to-government aid.

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