A money laundering case involving a former congressman represents a test for the ability of El Salvador's authorities to unravel the complex links between political elites and organized crime networks.
Former congressman Wilver Rivera Monge is on trial on money laundering charges alongside convicted drug trafficker Jorge Ernesto Ulloa Sibrián, alias "Repollo," and 26 other defendants suspected of hiding illicit profits connected to Ulloa Sibrián's cocaine trafficking operations, reported El Diario de Hoy.
The money laundering charges were formally brought against Rivera Monge in September 2014. Prosecutors say that Rivera Monge and members of his immediate family laundered roughly $8 million US in drug profits. The allegations suggest Rivera Monge used $1 million US of these illicit profits to fund his 2012 campaign for Congress, reported La Prensa Grafica.
Ulloa Sibrián was arrested in 2013 and ultimately sentenced to 77 years in prison in 2014 for his role in heading up a cocaine transport operation that spanned much of Central America, working in collaboration with the Texis Cartel and other drug trafficking cells in the region. Authorities say that Ulloa Sibrián's network was responsible for moving at least 16 tons of cocaine through Central America en route to the US.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Texis Cartel
Immediately after Ulloa Sibrián's arrest in 2013, El Salvador's security minister denied claims that any members of Congress had been implicated in the organized crime boss' trafficking network; a claim he later had to retract as evidence of Rivera Monge's involvement emerged. At the time of Ulloa Sibrián's arrest, Rivera Monge was already being held by authorities on suspicion of affiliation with the Texis Cartel.
InSight Crime Analysis
Rivera Monge's trial may set an important precedent for El Salvador's justice system and its ability to unravel webs of connection between powerful political elites and organized crime networks.
Ulloa Sibrián's conviction in 2014 was a rare victory against a powerful and politically well-connected drug trafficker for Salvadoran authorities. Given the size and duration of Ulloa Sibrián's operation, which dates back to 2000, there is reason to believe that he long operated with some degree of official protection.
SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles
Judges and prosecutors hesitant to bring charges against politically well-connected traffickers present systemic concerns for El Salvador's justice system.
Alleged high-level members of the Texis Cartel have proven particularly slippery in evading conviction in El Salvador's court system on charges ranging from car theft to money laundering.