Major corruption case advances

El Salvador's attorney general had a victory in a major corruption case to commence 2018.    The private secretary of former president Tony Saca, Élmer Charlaix, was found civilly liable on Thursday for "illicit enrichment" in the amount of almost 18 million dollars.   During his time handling money for Saca, Charlaix is accused of managing the transfer of hundreds of millions from accounts of the Salvadoran presidency to private accounts of the former president and his associates. 

Charlaix and his wife must now repay $18 million under the same law of illicit enrichment under which Saca's successor Mauricio Funes and his son were recently required to return $419,145 to the Salvadoran treasury.   Public officials can be held liable when they cannot explain an increase in wealth which occurred during their time in office.  The misappropriation of funds by Charlaix, Saca and their associates, however, clearly dwarfs the sum for which Funes was accused.

US Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes tweeted that the judgment against Charlaix was important day for the fight against corruption in El Salvador.  The necessity to fight corruption has been a regular theme in US relations with this Central American country.

The judgment against Charlaix readies the path for the criminal prosecution of Tony Saca, who has been in prison since November 2016 awaiting trial on corruption charges.  The former president, along with Charlaix and other members of Saca's administration, is charged with money laundering.  Saca is accused of being at the head of a scheme which diverted almost $300 million from government coffers into private bank accounts and then to accounts used for various personal and political party ends.   His case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in February. 

Charlaix (right) and Saca (left) as $18 million judgment against Charlaix is read