El Salvador’s former president Francisco Flores has fled the country after being accused of misappropriating $5.3 million donated by Taiwan, Salvadoran authorities said Monday.
"We strongly suspect he left by sea on a yacht and went to Puerta del Sol marina in Aserradero, Nicaragua, to refuel and then went on to Panama," Justice Minister Ricardo Perdomo told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.
There also is a conflicting report that Flores left El Salvador on a private plane for Panama, Perdomo added.
On Saturday, El Salvador President Mauricio Funes asked Panama not to grant political asylum to Flores, the Tico Times of Costa Rica reported.
“According to the press, ex-President Flores is in Panama and will request political asylum. I hope that President [Ricardo] Martinelli fully evaluates the situation, because [Flores] is not a political target. … He is being pursued legally for crimes he committed as president of the republic,” Funes said Saturday on his radio and television program “Chatting with the President.”
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News media in Panama have published rumors that Flores is at a Panamanian beach, the guest of former President Mireya Moscoso.
There is no legal migration record of Flores leaving El Salvador or entering another country, Perdomo said. But authorities suspect he left and may have entered Panama illegally. Panama has a long history of granting political asylum.
On Friday, legislature speaker Sigfrido Reyes asked Panama to help locate Flores, after a Panamanian media outlet reported Flores was in that country.
Attorney General Luis Martinez told broadcaster TCS last month that Flores is wanted for embezzlement, illicit enrichment and disobedience.
But so far an arrest warrant has not been issued.
In power between 1999 and 2004, Flores was investigated both by Congress and the attorney general's office in the wake of allegations by Funes that he received $10 million in donations from Taiwan without accounting for them.
Funes claimed Taipei donated the money to El Salvador in the waning months of Flores' presidency, between 2003 and 2004. Funes is leaving office on June 1.
Flores has said he accepted the money but did nothing inappropriate, passing it on through the proper channels.