Former energy minister Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli says he decided to return to Ecuador because the country’s justice system is finally independent. “Today, because of the actions of President (Lenin) Moreno, I believe that justice in this country is truly independent,” he said Friday night. “I submit myself to this independent justice system.”
Pareja was arrested Friday night at the Quito international airport when he arrived from Miami, where he had been living for nine months. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced to five years in prison last year for his part in a $45 million bribery scheme involving government construction contracts.
While he was in Miami, Pareja released a video tape in which he claimed that the justice system under former President Rafael Correa was “rigged and totally controlled” by the executive branch of government. “When this changes, I will return to Ecuador to face real justice,” he said.
In another tape, Pareja claimed that Vice President Jorge Glas, who had official oversight over Ecuador’s hydrocarbon sector, was involved in corruption at government-owned Petroecuador. “He was up to his eyeballs in it,” Pareja said.
Pareja’s attorney Gustavo Gaete says he will appeal the five-year sentence and will present new evidence in the case. He also said his client will cooperate with the federal prosecutor’s office and will share information about Glas’ role in Petroecuador corruption.
Defending Glas in Tweets and a Facebook video post, former president Correa said that he expected to hear new “infamies against the vice president” from Pareja. “I wonder what protections the government offered this criminal (Pareja) to spread more lies about Jorge (Glas).”
Pareja is being held in a jail north of Quito.