SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – In a surprise move on Friday, El Salvador’s former President Francisco Flores turned himself in to authorities in San Salvador to face charges of misappropriating $15 million in donations from the government of Taiwan while he was president.
Flores, who served from 1999-2004, had been on the run since February. He arrived with his attorney at the First Instructional Court in the capital, where police officers served an arrest warrant that had been issued on May 6. Interpol also had issued a red alert to notify foreign law enforcement agencies that Flores was a wanted man back home.
“He’s been read his rights, the crimes of which he’s accused and the reason for his arrest,” court spokesman Ulises Marinero said. “Prosecutors and the court now will determine to which prison ex-President Flores will be sent.”
Images from local TV station Channel 19 showed Flores dressed in a suit, sitting calmly in a courtroom run by judge Levis Orellana. His appearance sparked a flood of local and foreign journalists who flocked to the court to cover the event.
Flores claims to have been a victim of political persecution, but prosecutors say he is wanted for charges of corruption, illegal enrichment and disobeying a summons to appear after he allegedly misappropriated the $15 million.
He was investigated by both the Prosecutor’s Office and members of Congress, following accusations against him in October 2013 by ex-President Mauricio Funes (2009-2014). Funes made public reports he had obtained from the U.S. Treasury Department that showed suspicious transactions from Taiwan to Flores between 2003 and 2004.