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Salvadoran ex-president admits Taiwan payments

SAN SALVADOR -- Salvadoran ex-President Francisco Flores admitted to a congressional panel Tuesday that he had received checks worth millions of dollars from Taiwan but denied the funds were for his personal use.

“I handed in those checks (from Taiwan) for their appropriate use at all times,” said Flores, who was president from 1999-2004.

President Mauricio Funes last month suggested to reporters that the missing funds might have been skimmed or misused, and said prosecutors would call Flores in for questioning.

Funes recently charged that three checks — for US$1 million, US$4 million and US$5 million — were issued by the Bank of New York, on behalf of Taiwan, and endorsed by Francisco Flores.

The checks were received by a branch of Banco Cuscatlan in Costa Rica and sent to a bank in the Bahamas, through another bank in Miami, Funes said.

Funes said Taiwan donated the money to El Salvador in the waning months of Flores' presidency, between 2003 and 2004.

But Flores firmly rejected the president's charges about his depositing the funds in his private accounts.

“I would like to say that I have never deposited a check from Taiwan's government in any account; that is key for me, to make clear that I have never deposited a check from Taiwan's government in any account,” he stressed.

Later Tuesday the government recalled its ambassador from Taiwan for consultations, in protest of what it called delays by Taipei in answering requests for information about the donations.

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