Nicaragua grants nationality to former Salvadoran president accused in corruption probe

FILE PHOTO: El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Nicaragua said on Friday it granted nationality to former Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren and some family members, following an arrest order by El Salvador as part of a money laundering and corruption probe.

Sanchez Ceren's wife, Margarita Villalta, and three of the couple's children were also granted Nicaraguan nationality, according to the announcement by Nicaragua's interior ministry published in its official gazette.

El Salvador ordered Sanchez Ceren's arrest on July 22, along with nine other former top officials, on accusations of money laundering, embezzlement and illicit enrichment after they were transferred unauthorized funds, according to the attorney general. The attorney general also requested a red alert for Interpol in a search for Sanchez Ceren.

Sanchez Ceren left El Salvador for Nicaragua with his family in December 2020 and did not return, according to Salvadoran officials.

"The citizen Salvador Sanchez Ceren will enjoy the rights and prerogatives that the laws grant him and will be subject to the obligations corresponding to Nicaraguan nationals, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution," the interior ministry's announcement said.

The allegations against Sanchez Ceren stem from his time as vice president under President Mauricio Funes. Sanchez Ceren belonged to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), the leftist party that current Salvadorean President Nayib Bukele represented early in his career.

The FMLN expelled Bukele when he was mayor of San Salvador, saying he had sowed division and violated party statutes, accusations that Bukele denies.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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