(CN) - Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to launder $2.5 million in bribes from Taiwan's government through U.S. banks.
"I understood that, in exchange for these payments, I would use my influence to have Guatemala continue to recognize Taiwan diplomatically," Portillo said in his plea statement.
He pleaded guilty in Federal Court in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Portillo, 62, served as Guatemala's president from 2000 to 2004.
From about 1999 through 2009, he conspired to launder the money through U.S. banks. Portillo said two checks deposited into an Oxxy Financial account at the International Bank of Miami were "designed, in part, to conceal and disguise the source and ownership of the money."
He also deposited more than $1.5 million into accounts at a bank in Paris, France, under the names of his ex-wife and daughter. Prosecutors say that money was laundered through financial institutions in Luxembourg and Switzerland, among other places.
Portillo must forfeit the $2.5 million and faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison, three years parole and a $5 million fine.
"Former President Alfonso Portillo may have thought his position of power prevented him from having to answer for accepting multimillion-dollar bribes to shape his country's foreign policy, for embezzling money intended to benefit the Guatemalan people, and for using U.S. banks to launder the ill-gotten funds," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "But he was wrong."
Portillo is scheduled for sentencing on June 23 at 4 p.m.
Prosecutors reserved the right to charge him with criminal tax violations.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.