A Salvadoran businessmen with links to the Texis Cartel has once again escaped punishment after his possession of illegal arms case was dismissed on a legal technicality, suggesting corrupt state institutions continue to protect El Salvador’s criminal elite.
Charges against Leonel Sandoval were dropped after a court ruled that he could not be tried for having an illegal arsenal of weapons because the arms were discovered while police executed a search warrant for documents pertaining to suspect business transactions, reported La Prensa Grafica.
The case dates back to 2010, when a raid on Sandoval’s house uncovered rifles, grenades and ammunition, including weapons legally reserved for the use of the armed forces.
After posting $100,000 bail, Sandoval technically went on the run, not presenting himself at court appearances. However in reality, he was still conducting his business and living in his home.
Sandoval was rearrested in June 2013, but in August, a local court ruled the evidence collected was inadmissible as the weapons were not the target of the warrant.
This ruling was overturned by a regional court and the case was sent to trial. However, with the trial court now deciding to uphold the original decision, Sandoval has walked free.
InSight Crime Analysis
The name of Leonel Sandoval appeared in the first investigations into the Texis Cartel — one of El Salvador’s most powerful criminal organizations, which is run by influential businessmen.
The Texis Cartel’s main activities are not related directly to moving drugs but more focused on laundering money. Sandoval is believed to have aided in this activity through real estate deals.
SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel Profile
Many of Sandoval’s property deals raised suspicions, but investigations have made little progress — likely because many of Sandovals dealings involved high ranking police and judiciary officials.
Sandoval’s web of influential contacts extends to his attorney, Manuel Chacon, who rose to prominence in getting dismissed the case of one of the country’s top police officials, who was caught on video participating in a bank robbery in which eight people died.
Chacon was a leading advisor to former Security and Justice Minister and current Minster for Defense, Daivd Munguia, whose term in his previous role was marked by a near complete absence of investigations into the Texis Cartel.
“This doesn’t come as a surprise to me that this guy is now free because the cover of impunity of the Texis Cartel is so wide it has even been recognized by the United Nations,” said Hector Silva, InSight Crime’s El Salvador investigator.
“Yet again this is a show of impunity in my country”