Salvador court finds ex-president Funes illegally enriched himself

FILE PHOTO: Former president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes arrives at the attorney general office in San Salvador February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - An El Salvador court on Tuesday ruled in a civil case that former President Mauricio Funes and one of his sons had illegally enriched themselves and ordered them to pay nearly $420,000 in restitution to the government, a prosecutor said.

The country’s second civil court ruled that Funes could not justify $206,665 of his assets, while his son Diego Funes could not prove the origin of $212,484, government prosecutor Cecilia Galindo told reporters following a closed-door ruling.

The court also recommended that prosecutors file criminal charges against Funes, she said.

El Salvador’s attorney general had sought to recover $1.23 million from Funes and his family.

The court acquitted Funes’ ex-wife and the current social inclusion minister, Vanda Pignato, of similar charges, Galindo said. She did not specify why the court had levied a smaller fine than was sought by prosecutors.

Funes, a former journalist, was elected in 2009 and brought the party formed by a former leftist guerrilla group, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), to power for the first time following a 1980-1992 civil war.

His term ended in 2014 and he sought asylum in Nicaragua last year after claiming he was being politically persecuted.

Funes said in his Twitter account that he rejected “the unjust and arbitrary sentence” of the court.

“You can not condemn defendants for stealing money from the state and say their assets are illegal just because there is pressure from the Right to do so. We will appeal this sentence,” Funes said in a post.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Alistair Bell