Banco del Austro wants its 580,000 customers to know that despite rumors to the contrary it is open for business and in no danger of being seized by the government.
The basis for the rumors, according to two tellers at a Cuenca branch of the bank, is last week’s court order to seize properties and businesses owned by Juan Pablo Eljuri. Eljuri is charged with coordinating bribe payments between representatives of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and Ecuadorian government officials who managed Odebrecht contracts. According the prosecutor, the payments flowed through his South American International Bank (Sai Bank), headquartered in Curaçao.
Although Banco del Austro was founded by Eljuri’s grandfather, bank general manager GuillermoTálbot says it has no connection to him or the Eljuri group of businesses. There is no evidence that Banco del Austro has an association with Sai Bank.
“There was been some absurd talk that the bank is in trouble with the law but this is not true,” says Tálbot. “Our clients’ funds are secure and insured and the bank’s reserves are strong. All our operations are normal and there has been no unusual activity resulting from the rumors.”
Tálbot added that Banco del Austro has an AA rating from international rating firms and that external auditors have verified the bank’s financial health. “We are rated one of the strongest banks in Ecuador and we intend to maintain that status. Our assets and our clients’ assets of $1.7 billion are not in danger.”