Former El Salvador president sentenced to 10 years in prison

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SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - An El Salvador tribunal sentenced former President Antonio Saca to 10 years in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to embezzlement and money laundering charges involving more than $300 million of public funds.

Saca, 53, pleaded guilty to the charges last month. His lawyer said at the time that he had pleaded guilty in exchange for a reduction in his prison sentence.

During the trial, prosecutors said Saca had appropriated public funds for himself and others, including taking more than $7 million for his former party, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Five years of the sentence were for money laundering, and five for embezzlement. He also has to give back $260 million to the state.

The court also sentenced six other former officials from Saca’s government to between three and 16 years for participating in a network of corruption.

Saca, who governed El Salvador between 2004 and 2009, was detained in October 2016 during his son’s wedding.

Saca’s successor as president, Mauricio Funes, has been in exile in Nicaragua since September 2016, also accused of corruption. He has been accused of using public funds to pay for trips, home remodeling and hospital bills, among other expenses.

Leftist Funes, who governed El Salvador between 2009 and 2014, has said he is a victim of political attacks orchestrated by businessmen and conservatives.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria, Writing by Christine Murray, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien