As tourism rebounds, crimes against tourists drop; Noboa agrees with U.S. ambassador’s money laundering claim; VAT refunds to seniors delayed

Dec 11, 2023 | 0 comments

Although more tourists are returning to Ecuador following the Covid-19 pandemic, crimes against tourists have dropped sharply since 2021. According to the National Police, there were 4,391 reported crimes against tourists through November, down sharply from the 5,685 reported in the same period of 2022.

In 2021, there were 6,903 crimes against touristsd.

The most common tourist crime, the prosecutor’s office says, is theft without violence. This is followed by credit card fraud and theft in which victims are physically assaulted. It said that crimes involving physical assault amounted to less than 3% of total crimes.

As tourism rebounds from the Covid pandemic, the number of crimes against tourists are dropping, the National Police report.

According to Minister of Tourism Niels Olsen, crime affecting tourists in Ecuador is lower, per capita, than in neighboring Colombia and Peru. “We are also pleased to see the number of foreign visitors rise while crime drops,” he said. “This is especially important because of the news reports of criminal gang activity in our coastal region. Word is getting out that this has little effect on tourists.”

Olsen added tourism is rebounding strongly in the Galapagos, Cuenca and Quito and could surpass pre-pandemic numbers by the end of the year. “Because of high crime rates in cities such as Guayaquil, Manta and Esmeraldas, tourism growth is slower although the numbers are still rising.”

Noboa agrees with U.S. ambassador’s money laundering claim
President Daniel Noboa agrees with U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick that criminal gangs are using Ecuadorian businesses to lauder illegal money. On Thursday, Fitzpatrick said that professional football teams, as well as some banks and other businesses, are being used in money laundering operations.

“I do not disagree with the ambassador and controlling the situation he describes is one of my government’s top priorities,” Noboa said Saturday during his participation with the United Nations Security Council in New York.

In his statement, Noboa said “a fundamental pillar to recover Ecuador’s security” is to take decisive measures to block money laundering related with drug trafficking and other criminal financial activity. He claimed his proposal to strengthen rules for asset forfeiture involving criminal acts is a step to control money laundering. The proposal is included in the urgent economic law reform sent two weeks ago to the National Assembly.

Noboa said that stricter controls in the Internal Revenue Service will also help to identify suspected cases of money laundering. “Specifically, we must create an accurate inventory of property, including agricultural land and operations.”

VAT refunds to seniors delayed
The new government acknowledges it owes senior citizens millions of dollars in VAT refunds but says it is not sure when it will be able to pay. According to the Internal Revenue Services (SRI), no refunds have been made since August due to a lack of money. In addition to those over 65, people with disabilities are also waiting for refunds.

In a December 6 statement, the SRI said all refunds would be paid as soon as “the appropriate transfer of funds” is received from the Finance Ministry.

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