WILLEMSTAD – Former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes has once again been accused of corruption. Funes, who governed between 2009 and 2014, allegedly laundered $ 3.5 million of embezzled state money in front companies in El Salvador, Panama, Switzerland, the Marshall Islands and Curaçao, the Central American country’s prosecutor’s office reported last Friday.
Funes used these funds to establish the ‘Latin America Spas’ franchise, which had a presence in El Salvador, Switzerland and Panama, according to the Public Ministry. The company was administered in El Salvador by Mitchell Guzmán, wife of the former president and with whom he has been isolated in Nicaragua since 2016.
Prosecutors have added that the former president of the state-run Convention and Trade Fair Center (CIFCO) during the Funes government, Miguel Meléndez, and the then head of the Lempa River Hydroelectric Executive Commission, José Leopoldo Samour, traveled to Panama in 2012 to acquire a front company and open an account in the FPB Bank. The investigations of the Prosecutor’s Office indicate that this same operation was carried out once again by Meléndez, one of the leading Salvadoran private security entrepreneurs, in Panama, as well as in the Marshall Islands and Curaçao.
The Prosecutor explained that these 3.5 million dollars were delivered as “gifts” by the Italian capital company Astaldi for reaching a “direct settlement” on the end of a contract for the construction of the El Chaparral dam. Astaldi had a contract since 2008 for almost 220 million dollars with the Government to build the dam, but it abandoned the work due to “unexpected geological events,” according to the investigations.
The Funes government agreed with Astaldi the direct payment of 108.5 million dollars, which included the cancellation of “the work executed so far, plus an additional 45.2 million dollars, without legal or technical basis” the extra amount, prosecutors say. Funes, Meléndez, Samour, Guzman and the representatives of the Italian company, José Enfraín Quinteros and Mario Pieragostini, have been formally accused in this case up to now. “In July 2012, after conducting negotiations unilaterally and directly, (the accused) managed to cancel the contract and divert between them an amount of 108.5 million dollars,” said the Public Ministry.