Among the defendants are former Defense Ministers, Generals David Munguía Payés and Atilio Benítez; as well as, Gustavo López Davidson. The judge said that the Prosecutor’s Office had not proven the crimes and did not present the operating and valuation expertise of the howitzers.
The 5th Peace Court ruled this afternoon that the former Defense Ministers David Munguía Payés and Atilio Benítez, as well as Gustavo López Davidson, legal representative of the Centrum company, and two other defendants be processed at liberty. All five are charged with alleged acts of corruption in the exchange or exchange of weapons between the Ministry of Defense and the Centrum company.
Following the resolution, the judge ordered that four of the five defendants be immediately released. The fifth defendant enjoyed his freedom for suffering from a chronic disease.
“This is an invented case, without foundation, a political persecution, without a doubt Bukele fears me, but not me, he fears what I defend are my democratic and republican principles,” said López Davidson, after regaining his freedom.
He added that “they have accused a lot of loopholes, which was what (the judge) mentioned, and simply if there were deep cases, I was already plugged in (prisoner) as the president wants, but it is not like that, he worked the truth and worked the Justice”.
Due to these alleged acts of corruption, the State lost $ 2,051,893.00, according to the Attorney General’s Office (FGR).
No bail was imposed on the defendants, and they will go on to the next stage of the judicial process. They must appear to sign every 30 days to the 5th Instruction Court.
The judge said that the Prosecutor’s Office had not proven the crimes against the five defendants and that it did not present the operating and appraisal expertise of the howitzers to establish whether or not embezzlement was committed (appropriating state resources).
Before beginning the reading of the resolution, López Davidson assured that he knew that the Israeli company that sent the two howitzers (artillery pieces) will sue the State of El Salvador.
“The howitzers are fully operational, it is almost certain that the Israeli company is going to sue for everything that the president (Bukele) and the minister have said about these howitzers, that becomes complicated for our country,” said López Davidson. .
He assured that the weapons that the Ministry of Defense delivered to the Centrum company were sent in parts to the United States, which is documented with the permits of the Ministry of Defense of El Salvador and the United States Department of State.
“In other words, no whole weapon came from here, everything like the long gun magazines, like the G-3s and old weapons that were in the warehouses of the Armed Forces, everything got rid of that disused material,” he said. López Davidson.
The thesis used by the Attorney General’s Office to accuse the defendants in this case is that the Ministry of Defense delivered 2,441 new firearms and the Centrum company gave it two incomplete howitzers (artillery pieces).
Apart from the two former defense ministers and the former president of ARENA, Colonel Manuel de Jesús Romero and Héctor Abel Herrera Mejía, the latter general manager of Centrum, are also accused in the case.
General Rafael Melara Rivera is considered a fugitive from justice. The Attorney General’s Office reported that Melara Rivera is out of the country.
Days ago, the legal representative of the Centrum company, Gustavo López Davidson, was the only one of the defendants to defend himself against the accusations made by the Attorney General’s Office. He faces charges of necessary complicity in the crime of embezzlement (appropriating state resources).
López Davidson considered that the arrests of the five accused is nothing more than a political persecution on the part of the Government.
The tax investigation details that the former Minister of Defense, Atilio Benítez, was in charge of signing the exchange contract (exchange of something for something else) of obsolete weapons or in poor condition with the Centrum company in exchange for two howitzers (artillery pieces ).
The contract established that Defense would provide 14,930 firearms, 27,721 magazines, 2,706,472 7.62 caliber cartridges, and 9,800 spare parts for a G-3 rifle in poor condition. All with a value of $ 2,051,893.00.
In exchange for this obsolete armament, Defense would receive two new M-71 howitzers (artillery pieces), 155 mm caliber, a fire control system, a target acquisition system, measurement equipment, a 20-ton jack, a automatic pressure greaser.
In this sense, the Prosecutor’s Office accuses López Davidson of having delivered two “repowered” shells to the Ministry of Defense, that is to say, that for the prosecution these pieces were in “poor operational condition” and missing accessories.
It points out that the legal representatives of the companies invited to the swap turned out to be López Davidson’s employees at Centrum.
Benítez is also accused of having authorized the inclusion of 2,441 new FMK-3 submachine guns, which were not part of the exchanged weapons, according to the contract, said the Prosecutor’s Office.