As well as his children and his wife, who are also exiled here since 2016.
El Salvador Demands Extradition of Funes from Nicaragua
Funes has been in exile in Nicaragua. Some El Salvador analysts claim that Funes’ exile loses validity because he is being criminally prosecuted.
El Salvador prosecutors have started an international extradition process for former president Mauricio Funes (2009-2014), who was charged with embezzling over 231 million USD, with a judge issuing an arrest warrant for the former president who has been in exile in Nicaragua.
The Chief Judge of a San Salvador Criminal Court ordered an international extradition order to be issued against Funes, his two children, his wife and 11 other fugitives who have been linked to the corruption scandal.
They will join others who will now total 32 people who have been sent to the Criminal Court with pre-trial detention orders for allegedly forming part of the network which transferred the millions from State funds to personal accounts and then laundering the money.
The ruling against Funes, his family and everyone else being accused had been pending since June 11th, because legal representation hadn’t been sent to the initial hearing which meant that the judge had to make a decision in front of a public defender in a job “with the aim of an injunction”.
The Head of the Attorney General’s Financial Investigation Unit, Jorge Cortez, explained that the judge would inform Interpol’s office in El Salvador about his decision so “as to be able to make the order code-red and begin to search worldwide.”
However, the official didn’t explain whether Funes’ exile status would affect the extradition process from Nicaragua, which is suffering a socio-political crisis which has left over 200 fatalities.
Does exile lose validity if you are being criminally prosecuted?
Some El Salvador analysts claim that Funes’ exile loses validity because he is being criminally prosecuted, given the fact that this status is only used to protect political refugees.
The Nicaraguan government has a historic alliance with the party which brought Funes to power [the FMLN, which is still in power] and has granted exile to the former president, his wife Ada Michell Guzman Siguenza and his children Carlos Mauricio Funes Velasco and Diego Roberto Funes Canas in September 2016.
After learning about the judge’s ruling, Funes dismissed statements made by witnesses appearing on behalf of the Attorney-General’s Office on his social media accounts, claiming that they had been “threatened” to testify against him.
“Many of the witnesses called by the Attorney-General were threatened of being incriminated if they didn’t speak out against me,” the former president said, who pointed out that the people who accepted were making opportunistic statements.
Nevertheless, prosecutor Cortez maintained that the judge based his decision on an “objective” analysis of the evidence presented against Funes and the others, evidence which is “direct” and “binding”.
“We have evidence which proves he participated in assets laundering which links him to embezzlement” because it was “a necessary and important part of being able to withdraw this money from the State’s coffers,” said Cortez.
He also added that this evidence further proves that the former president “showered his entire family with benefits, trips abroad, buying expensive things, cars and properties.”
The charges that Funes and other suspects are facing in the preliminary investigation are embezzlement, money laundering, special cases of money laundering and special cases of covering up this crime up.
Ruling under the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front’s flag of “change” against previous governments’ corruption, Funes is the third president in El Salvador during the country’s democratic period to be accused of seizing public funds.
In addition to Funes and Elias Antonio Saca, who is in pre-trial prison, the late former president Francisco Flores was taken to trial for allegedly stealing 15 million USD which came as a donation from Taiwan.
Between the three processed former presidents, they stand accused of embezzling over 667 million USD, much of which corresponds to Funes, who led the first Leftist government in El Salvador after the end of the civil war (1980-1992).
Before the Funes’ embezzlement case was revealed, the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report which stated that corruption cost El Salvador 550.9 million USD between 1989-2014, which is equal to 2.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).