Salvadoran AG's office says ex-president embezzled $300 mn

    16 de abril de 2018

    San Salvador, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- The Salvadoran Attorney General's Office raised to more than $300 million the amount of public funds allegedly embezzled by former President Elias Antonio Saca, one of the prosecutors in the case said on Monday before the start of the preliminary hearing in the case.

    Initially, the AG's Office accused Saca of misappropriating $246 million from the state budget during his mandate and laundering it through several communications companies with the help of six other officials.

    "It's more than $300 million," the prosecutor, who requested anonymity, said curtly before the hearing when asked by reporters about the amount in question in the indictment presented before the San Salvador court.

    The prosecutor said that the evidence against Saca and regarding the participation of all those indicted is all contained in the document to be presented in court on Monday.

    Saca and the other six former officials stand accused of embezzlement, money laundering and illicit association.

    Besides Saca, those accused in the case are former officials Elmer Charlaix, Julio Rank and Cesar Funes, as well as Pablo Gomez, Francisco Rodriguez Arteaga and Jorge Alberto Herrera, whom prosecutors say either worked in his 2004-2009 administration or helped him carry out the embezzlement and other crimes.

    The seven were transferred on Monday to the Isidro Melendez Judicial Center in San Salvador for the preliminary hearing.

    Prosecutors say that Saca and his accomplices operated a criminal group within the president's office that moved more than $300 million to 14 personal accounts of Charlaix, Rodriguez and Gomez, from which at least $116 million was later removed "in cash," of which they laundered $6 million.

    Saca is facing other charges for allegedly giving a $10,000 bribe to a judicial employee with the First Civil Chamber, where he is facing another civil suit, the purpose of the bribe allegedly being to get the female employee to leak information to him.

    El Salvador lost at least $550.9 million - equivalent to 2.1 percent of its GDP - between 1989 and 2014 to corruption, mainly to "secret" expenditures by the President's Office and other public projects, according to a recently-released study by Icefi, the Central American institute for financial studies.