Ex-El Salvador president jailed while on trial over allegedly embezzling $19m from Taiwan

Former El Salvador president Francisco Flores (centre) walks out of his house while being guarded by Deputy Director of Police Howard Cotto (right) and the elite unit Reaction Police Group (GRP) in San Benito neighbourhood, San Salvador, on Sept 19,
Former El Salvador president Francisco Flores (centre) walks out of his house while being guarded by Deputy Director of Police Howard Cotto (right) and the elite unit Reaction Police Group (GRP) in San Benito neighbourhood, San Salvador, on Sept 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN SALVADOR (AFP) - Former El Salvadoran president Francisco Flores, accused of embezzling US$15 million (S$19 million) donated by Taiwan while in office, was sent to prison on Friday after the court revoked his house arrest.

Under heavy elite police guard, the former leader was taken from his home in an exclusive residential area in the west of San Salvador and taken in a police car to the Anti- Narcotics Division, where he was confined to a cell, civil police deputy chief Howard Cotto told reporters. "It is a normal cell, with nothing special and where the president will be alone," added Mr Cotto, who had earlier escorted Flores himself to jail.

On Thursday, the First Criminal Chamber overturned a Sept 5 court ruling that allowed Flores to remain under house arrest for the duration of the trial.

Flores, who was president of the small Central American country from 1999 to 2004, claims to be a victim of political persecution. He is accused of embezzlement, illicit enrichment, and actions detrimental to public administration.

He was investigated by El Salvador's Congress as well as the Attorney-General's Office after then President Mauricio Funes said US Treasury Department reports showed suspicious transfers by Taiwan to Flores between 2003 and 2004.