El Salvador

El Salvador probes ex-president over missing Taiwan donation

Authorities to investigate loss of US$10 million donation from Taiwan to El Salvador intended for poor farmers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 11:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 11:39am

El Salvador’s president has asked the attorney general to investigate a US$10 million donation that Taiwan made 10 years ago to the Salvadoran government during the administration of then-president Francisco Flores.

President Mauricio Funes told reporters on Tuesday the complaint is based on suspicious operations detected by the US Treasury Department, information that was received by prosecutors in the Central American country in September. He said he had a copy of the information but would not say how he had received it.

The attorney general’s office, which is independent of the government, confirmed the investigation but said it could not provide details.

The US report indicates Flores received checks totaling US$10 million from a Taiwanese government account between 2003 and 2004, Funes said. The donation was intended for a Salvadoran government agency registering land for poor farmers, but Funes said the money never reached the agency.

Flores, who was president from 1999 to 2004, could not be reached for comment, but he earlier denied any wrongdoing in a local newspaper.

Flores is a member of the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance, or ARENA for its initials in Spanish, which held the Salvadoran presidency for 20 years until Funes was elected in 2009 from the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. Funes’ party was formed by rebels fighting the government during the country’s civil war, although he did not personally fight in the war.

With a presidential election coming up in February, ARENA is calling the investigation in to the missing millions political persecution. Flores is campaign director for ARENA’s presidential candidate, Norman Quijano.

The attorney general is also investigating nine people from Flores’ administration on suspicion of embezzlement.