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Prosecutor takes five former FMLN officials to court

Prosecutor takes five former FMLN officials to court

The government-controlled Public Prosecutor’s Office charged the former court officials with the crimes of illicit enrichment and money and asset laundering.

Yesterday morning, the Public Prosecutor’s Office filed the formal indictment against ten former officials of the government of Mauricio Funes Cartagena (2009-2014) for alleged crimes related to money laundering, assets and illicit enrichment.

The accused were taken to the Isidro Menendez Judicial Center in San Salvador, under a strong security apparatus by the Jaguares Police Group. Each of them was protected by flak jackets and armored helmets. Meanwhile, dozens of FLN fighters gathered in front of the courts to protest the arrests.

All of these persons are accused of the crimes of illicit enrichment and money and asset laundering. “The period of investigation corresponds to the time they held various public positions during the (Mauricio Funes) presidency,” the prosecutor in the case said while filing the application at the Second Magistrate’s Court in San Salvador.

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Police guard Violeta Menjivar, Hugo Flores Hidalgo (center) and Erlinda Hindal before they arrive at the Second Peace Court in San Salvador. Photo EDH/Minley Cortez

The Public Prosecutor of the Specialized Anti-Money Laundering Unit, who requested anonymity, confirmed that one of the main reasons for the accusation is that the former officials received monthly and cash funds from the Special Secretariat of the Prime Minister. In turn, without being covered by their nominal salary. “These sums of money were received outside the law,” he said.

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According to the attorney general’s office, the defendants now received the money in envelopes and followed guidelines to prevent discovery of the money being handed over. When the attorney general was asked about the guidelines they followed, he explained that they were asked that the money had not been deposited in banks or advertised.

However, Jose Emilio Gonzalez Castro, Violeta Menjivar’s lead attorney and legal representative for the rest of the captured ex-officials, said they would wait to review the entire requirement, to determine whether the crimes cited by the attorney general’s office were applicable in each defendant’s case.

“We don’t know how many pages this requirement includes. We know there are about five boxes,” Gonzalez Castro said, adding that he would request alternative measures to arrest Violetta Menjivar because of her health, but did not give details.

The former finance minister, Carlos Caceres, is waiting to be summoned by the court. Photo EDH/Minley Cortez

At the end of filing the application, defense attorneys stated that Carlos Caceres, Violeta Menjivar, Erlinda Hendal and Calixto Mejia would be taken to forensic medicine to determine their health.

If they don’t need urgent medical care, the five will be held in Bartolina with the Congolese National Police’s Directorate of Border Security and Transit, until Tuesday’s initial hearing.

PHOTOS: This is how former FMLN officials were taken to court for formal indictment

The former officials were arrested Thursday, at the same time that an arrest warrant was issued for Manuel Orlando Quinteros Aguilar (Gerson Martinez), the former Minister of Public Works; Lena Paul, former environment minister; José Manuel Melgar, former Minister of Security and former Private Secretary to the Presidency; José Guillermo Bellarmino López, former Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, and Salvador Sánchez Serene, former Vice President and then President of the Republic.

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The prosecutor in the case confirmed that the arrests came as a result of investigations that began in 2019 in the case of Mauricio Funes, who was linked to acts of illicit enrichment by extracting up to $350 million from public funds and is currently a fugitive and student. Under the regime of Daniel Ortega.

Criticism of the Prosecutor’s Office

Various organizations have spoken out since the arrest of the five former officials in the government of Mauricio Funes, including the Foundation for Law Enforcement Studies (Fespad).

According to Wiesbad’s statement, the former officials were arrested “through abuse of power and clear signs of abuse.” The institution also states that it is necessary to respect the presumption of innocence of the accused because the offense can only be imputed at the end of criminal proceedings, with a final and firm judgment.

Vesbad denounced that “the actions of the state apparatus place El Salvador in the context of the 1970s and 1980s, in which respect for civil rights was much less than an aspiration.”

Last Thursday, July 22, when Manjifar was arrested, her lawyer stated that she had been “cheated on the patrol, without being read out for her rights, while explaining that they were conducting a routine investigation”.

For his part, lawyer Humberto Sainz, president of Acción Ciudadana, said that “it is surprising that they have identified certain officials, deputy ministers for example, but it is a coincidence that no ministers from the same government portfolios appear, and it is difficult if a deputy minister I was receiving a bonus at that time.” The Minister was in a different system, and it would be hard for me to believe it happened this way.”

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Sanz believes that “this selectivity also sends a message that can be interpreted more as persecution than as a concern for justice.

FMLN leaders questioned the actions of the police authorities and the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the arrests of former officials of their party. They described them as arbitrary acts and said that the detainees are political prisoners of Najib Boukil’s government, demanding their immediate release.

All of the accused are members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a party from which Bukele was expelled.