SAN SALVADOR – Former Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca (2004-2009) repeated Friday his innocence and that of six members of his government accused of diverting $246 million in government funds to private accounts, as the second day of his hearing was about to start.
“We are innocent of all charges brought against us by the Attorney General’s Office and we will demonstrate that during the proceedings” because “in our government we did everything in accordance with the law,” Saca told the press before the start of the hearing.
Saca and the other defendants arrived at court around 8:30 a.m. in the custody of agents of an elite police corps, and the hearing began at 9:00 a.m.
Being tried along with Saca in San Salvador are his former private secretary, Elmer Charlaix, ex-Communications Secretary Julio Rank and ex-Youth Secretary Cesar Funes.
Also implicated are Pablo Gomez, Francisco Rodriguez Arteaga and Jorge Alberto Herrera, suspected to have been direct collaborators of the former president and still employees of the Presidency.
All were arrested last Sunday.
On the first day of the hearing, which lasted more than seven hours, the prosecution said the structure headed by Saca moved government funds to private accounts and made cash withdrawals that went straight to companies belonging to the ex-president.
The prosecutors in the case said Saca’s businesses, including at least six radio stations, banked “disproportionate revenues” during his five years in office, thanks to the diversion of $246 million from the government budget.
They said that Saca’s media enterprises declared a total income of approximately $114,000 before 2004, while during his term in office they took in $7 million annually.
The AG Office supported its argument with a report from the Probity Section of the Supreme Court of Justice, or CSJ, which found Saca inexplicably increased his assets by more than $4 million.
Saca, who declared his innocence before the hearing began, said he goes into the proceedings with “all the documentation and corresponding papers” needed to “make meaningless” the charges brought by the AG Office.
The defendant came to power through the conservative ARENA party, which governed El Salvador for 20 years and has been known for its involvement in numerous corruption cases.