The special National Assembly commission investigating corruption in public companies and possible links to President Guillermo Lasso heard more testimony Thursday as it rushes to complete its work by a March 3 deadline. Earlier this week, the commission requested and was granted a 10-day extension by the full Assembly to present its final report.
At a Thursday morning press conference, Commission President Viviana Veloz of the Correista Unes bloc, expressed frustration in difficulty obtaining police information regarding alleged connections between the Albanian mafia and people close in the government, including Danilo Carrera, Lasso’s brother-in-law, who heads the public electric company.
“If the National Police Commander and the Interior Minister refuse to authorize the appearance of the agents who investigated the case, the commission will assume that all the allegations are true, including those implicating the president,” Veloz said.
Later Thursday, Interior Minister Juan Zapata responded that police agents were free to testify if their schedules allow it.
According to two special commission members, the investigation has failed to link Lasso with acts of corruption or to the Albanian mafia, the organization that allegedly controls illegal drug shipments to Europe. “The Correista members requested the extension because they do not have the evidence to prove the president guilty,” said Rodrigo Fajardo of the Democratic Left. “The commission has finished its final report but has not established a link to the executive. They are stalling for time, hoping to find evidence they can add to the report.”
Fajardo acknowledged there are “many cases” of corruption in public companies that should be prosecuted. “This has been established and corrective legal action should go forward,” he said. “On the other hand, there is no evidence showing the president interacted with the Albanians and this is what some members insist on establishing.”
Fajardo added that the Albanian mafia moved into Ecuador during the presidency of Rafael Correa. “If we really want to investigate this, we need to go back many years to look for connections. The Albanians are major players in the current crime situation in Ecuador.”
Pachakutik Assemblyman Ricardo Vanegas agreed with Fajardo. “The police report that some commission members want to question clearly shows there is no link with the president and the Albanian mafia. They want to attack the police agents for not producing the evidence they want.”
Like Fajardo, Vanegas says investigations of “criminal structures” in public companies should continue. “There is corruption here that has been going on for a long time and it should be rooted out and exposed. Let’s focus on that.”
Given the Correista majority on the special commission, Fajardo expects it will ultimately recommend impeachment proceedings to begin against Lasso. “That’s the intent here and there are probably the votes in the full Assembly to proceed to a trial.”
On Thursday, the Assembly’s Anti-Corruption Parliamentary Front delivered an 85-page report to the occasional commission of its own investigation into public company corruption.
According to leader of the Front, Fernando Villavicencio, Lasso was aware of the police investigation of Carrera as well as of businessman Rubén Chérres who is accused of acts of corruption.