Former president of El Salvador Mauricio Funes faces trial for laundering from asylum in Nicaragua

Former president of El Salvador Mauricio Funes faces trial for laundering from asylum in Nicaragua

A Salvadoran court established a new criminal trial against former President Mauricio Funes for money laundering, for allegedly bidding for a bridge in favor of a Guatemalan company in exchange for receiving a plane. The former president, asylum in Nicaragua, has seven criminal proceedings against him and two of them with a conviction.

The case heard in a court in San Salvador began in December 2020, when the Public Ministry accused the former president and issued the seventh arrest warrant against him. A year earlier, the government of Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega granted him nationality to prevent him from being extradited.

Funes, who governed El Salvador from 2009 to 2014, lives in Nicaragua under the protection of the Ortega government and has not been present at any of the trials against him. In one, convicted of negotiating with gangs during his term, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison; In another for illicit enrichment, he was sentenced to repay more than $400,000.

As reported by the Prosecutor’s Office in a statement, the former president handed over the design and construction project of a bridge in 2013 to a Guatemalan company for 8.4 million dollars. In exchange, Funes allegedly received a King Air model airplane for the use of himself and a businessman, which they used for trips with their families to the United States, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Guatemala.

The former president has not appointed a defense lawyer, so one was assigned to him ex officio.

For this criminal process, businessman José Miguel Menéndez — known as “Mecafé” — was sentenced to eight years in prison in August 2022. The sentencing court found evidence that he made 47 trips with the aircraft in question between June 27 2013 and September 13, 2016.

After that conviction, a criminal reform was approved on September 21, 2022 that allows trials to be held with absent defendants, so Funes can face the current criminal trial without being present.

In 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office also issued arrest warrants against the Salvadoran businessman and against his Guatemalan counterpart Jaime Ramón Aparicio Mejía, the latter accused of bribery.

In addition to this case, Funes has faced six other criminal proceedings. A court in El Salvador sentenced him in May 2023 to 14 years in prison for negotiating a truce with the gangs during his term to lower the homicide rate in exchange for offering benefits to his leaders in the prisons.

The court imposed a sentence of 18 years in prison on his former Minister of Security, General David Munguía Payés.

Funes, who became president of El Salvador nominated by the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), is also being prosecuted for the diversion of $351 million from the presidential allocation of reserved expenses.

The former ruler also has proceedings for the payment of 108.5 million dollars to a company for the construction of a hydroelectric dam, for the disclosure of a Suspicious Operations Report (ROS) that revealed the diversion of 10 million donated dollars. for Taiwan by the late former president Francisco Flores (1999-2004) of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and for bribes to former attorney general Luis Martínez.

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