Money laundering, bribery, and negotiations with gangs are the crimes former FMLN and ARENA public officials are linked to

The house arrest measure for years has benefited former officials, former ministers, or former mayors who are splattered in El Salvador for various crimes of corruption, commonly money laundering, bribery (bribery), illegal negotiations, among others.

This measure is a “prison” benefit that is applied alternately to the prison sentence in exceptional cases, when they are negligent crimes, among other cases. This application is considered or granted by the judges who are entrusted with the processes.

As it is a measure that is applied according to the judge’s criteria, the common denominator has been to apply it almost exclusively to former officials, despite being accused of laundering millions of dollars from the state coffers. One of the recent beneficiaries of the law has been former prosecutor Luis Martnez. The Fifth Surveillance Court decided that the former official should be placed under house arrest.

Martínez was convicted of disclosure of reserved material to the detriment of Antonio Rodríguez Tercero, known as Father Toño. In addition, he has two pending processes. One of them is the Corruptela case, in which he is accused of various crimes, for example, failure to investigate and disclose information. The court decided that an electronic bracelet be imposed on him.

Luis Martínez

He must also comply with precautionary measures, such as going to the corresponding court to sign every 15 days, not leaving the country, and not approaching the victims and witnesses. Another former official who benefited from house arrest until December 20 is the former Minister of Security, David Victoriano Munguía Payés, accused of having provided prison benefits to gang members to reduce homicides.

Munguía Payés is accused of crimes of unlawful associations, breach of duties, and arbitrary acts committed when he was in office, from November 2011 to June 15, 2013, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. On December 21, a judge revoked his home arrest privilege and sent him to trial and to the Mariona prison.

Among the benefits that the gangs received were transfers of leaders, abundant food deliveries, use of cell phones, home theaters, cakes, cable television, PlayStation and video games, and porn parties, among others.

The former official was sent to house arrest last year. The court said that it granted the alternative measure for humanitarian reasons, since the defendant is an elderly person and allegedly suffers from health problems such as hypertension, which put him at risk in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Munguía Payés

Former first lady Vanda Pignato is under house arrest while her involvement in money laundering is being investigated during the administration of the former president Mauricio Funes, between 2009 and 2014. The Prosecutor’s Office accuses her of laundering $165,000 of the $351 million that, according to the public prosecutor, the fugitive ex-president and 30 other people reportedly laundered the state coffers. In addition, she is arrested for a simulated crime case involving the purchase of a vehicle. Pignato, who also served as the former secretary of Social Inclusion, tried to make the public prosecutor believe that someone had used her signature in the sale of a vehicle to José Miguel Menéndez, alias Mecafé. The car had been sold to him by Mecafé for $60,000. Curiously, he had bought it in February 2010 for $100,000. However, the Prosecutor’s Office later verified that Pignato signed that vehicle’s purchase and sale document, but in order to distinguish herself from it, she pretended that she had been the victim of a forgery of her signature, with which she sought to avoid being investigated.

Vanda Pignato

The former television presenter, Jorge Hernández, was arrested in November 2017 for being involved in the embezzlement and diversion of public funds, led by the former president, Elías Antonio Saca, who pleaded guilty to the diversion of $300 million from the State coffers. In March 2019, Jorge Hernández was sent to house arrest by the Eighth Justice of the Peace in San Salvador. According to tax investigations, he created an advertising company in which millions of dollars were diverted from public funds between 2006 and 2008. Hernández received $5,845,675 through the Marketing and Services from Central America. The Prosecutor’s Office determined that the former presenter was left with a commission of between 15% and 20% for legalizing the money. In August of last year, the public ministry requested that 36 properties be confiscated; among these, beach ranches, land, residences, and companies. The former presenter was accused of appropriating $120,000 in labor retentions from journalists from Channel 25 and Órbita FM.

Mauricio Funes and Jorge Hernández

The former communications secretary of the Presidency, David Marciano Rivas, is part of the network led by the corrupt former president, Mauricio Funes, to loot $351 million from the state coffers. In this case, the former employee is under house arrest. The Prosecutor’s Office accuses him of having laundered $1,070,000. The indictment details that the former employee cashed 23 checks for $593,000 in public funds. Rivas received a salary of $2,080 for his position during the Funes administration, from June 1, 2009, to December 31, 2014. As a result of this process, four properties, two vehicles, and four financial products totaling $800,000 were seized from Rivas. In June 2018, the accused voluntarily presented himself to the Fifth Court of Peace, where he was accused by the public prosecutor. Rivas was sent to a provisional prison, but last year he benefited from alternative measures to detention. For this year, the accused requested to modify the house arrest for a measure that would allow him to work; however, this was denied by the Eighth Investigating Court.

David Rivas

The Seventh Court of the Peace of San Salvador decreed in September this year an instruction with house arrest against the former mayor of San Salvador Ernesto Muyshondt, along with another former employee of the municipality, for the alleged irregular withholding of labor fees of 41 employees of the commune capital city. However, 17 days later, the Third Criminal Chamber ordered the arrest of the former official and annulled the house arrest that benefited him.

“The resolution issued by this chamber […] by which the provisional arrest was replaced by the precautionary measure of house arrest, together with the imposition of the financial guarantee for the aforementioned defendants, must be rendered without effect. Consequently, the provisional arrest of the accused Ernesto Luis Muyshondt García-Prieto and Fernando Heriberto Portillo Linares [municipal ex-treasurer] “— is detailed in the resolution. The former mayor of San Salvador is accused of the crime of breach of duty for an amount of $5,109,628.60 in debt. According to tax investigations, between May 2019 and April 2021, more than 50 municipal employees were detained without justifying labor fees.

Ernesto Muyshondt

Francisco José Cáceres Zaldaña, Mauricio Funes’ former private secretary, is accused of embezzlement (appropriation of public funds) and money laundering in the amount of $1.567,659. In September 2019, Cáceres turned himself in to the authorities after being on the run for 15 months. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the former secretary was a key figure in the diversion of the $ 351 million that Funes made from the state coffers. Cáceres endorsed the issuance of checks that were paid with funds allocated by the Ministry of Finance to the Institutional Subsidiary account of the Public Treasury of the Presidency. The former employee was key in the movements, since his office was in charge of the bonuses to civil servants and of the contracting of goods and services with the money from the secret game, according to the public prosecutor’s office. From the moment of his capture, the Seventh Investigating Judge granted him house arrest. According to the investigations, in addition to Cáceres receiving public funds, his family also benefited from trips. The Prosecutor’s Office determined that the defendant spent $98,000 on medical expenses for an uncle at Baptist Hospital in Miami, Florida.

Mauricio Funes and Francisco Cáceres