El Salvador probes alleged graft related to Taiwan funds

Prosecutors in El Salvador are investigating the alleged diversion of some $10 million in funds donated by Taiwan and purportedly used to pay for political campaigning by the governing party.

Prosecutor Douglas Melendez said Thursday in a TV interview that the money came from $38 million that Taipei gave to the Foreign Ministry for various projects.

Melendez alleged the funds were diverted to the presidency and "apparently used in a partisan campaign" under then President Mauricio Funes in elections won by current President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, an FMLN party ally of Funes.

Melendez said ex-Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez has been questioned because it was under his watch that the money was allegedly passed to the presidency.

Martinez is the party's candidate for the presidential election next year.

The FMLN party political commission issued a statement calling the accusations "baseless" and accusing Melendez of "attacking our candidate and our party in a slanderous and irresponsible way."

Martinez said in a press statement that he wasn't in the foreign ministry during the time period mentioned. "I am not prepared to allow my reputation to be sullied with irresponsible statements based on electoral politics," he said.

Recently El Salvador switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to mainland China, though there was no suggestion of any link between that change and the investigation.

Earlier this week, former President Tony Saca of the Arena party was sentenced to 10 years in prison for embezzlement and money laundering along with several associates who also pleaded guilty.

Melendez said these investigations show that "nobody wears a crown in this country. Nobody is above the law."

Funes was president from 2009 to 2014. He and multiple former officials and family members are accused of corruption.

He is currently in Nicaragua, where he was granted asylum. He denies wrongdoing.