Salvadorean ex-leader Flores in Taiwan payment inquiry

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Florencio Flores before a congressional panel on 7 January 2013Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Francisco Flores said he handed in the cheques "for their appropriate use"

Former Salvadorean President Francisco Flores has told a congressional panel that he received cheques worth $10m (£6m) from Taiwan during the last two years of his presidency.

Mr Flores, who governed from 1999 to 2004, denied the funds were for his personal use.

He said Taiwan donated the money to El Salvador.

Current Salvadorean President Mauricio Funes last month suggested that the funds may have been misused.

"I would like to say that I have never deposited a cheque from Taiwan's government in any account; that is key for me, to make clear that I have never deposited a cheque from Taiwan's government in any account," Mr Flores told the congressional panel set up to trace the money.

Mr Flores said he had asked Taiwan for donations on three occasions.

The first time, he said, it was to help reconstruction efforts after two devastating earthquakes killed about 1,500 people and left more than 200,000 homeless in El Salvador in 2001.

Another time he had asked Taiwan for help in combating drug trafficking, and a third to crack down on crime and gangs, he explained.

According to Mr Flores, it was customary for Taiwan to make out cheques to the person soliciting the funds directly.

He said that El Salvador enjoyed "a privileged relationship" with Taiwan because it backed the Asian country's membership request to the United Nations.

But President Funes has alleged that the money never reached the government programmes it was intended for, instead being deposited in a bank in the Bahamas.

Mr Funes has also recalled the Salvadorean ambassador from Taiwan in protest at "Taiwan's delays" in answering requests for information about the donations.