Pre-dawn raids in Guayaquil and Quito Wednesday morning resulted in 17 arrests and the confiscation of millions of dollars worth of Covid-19 test kits, antiviral medications and personal protection gear. Among those taken into custody were former president Abdalá Bucaram an Guayas Province Prefect Carlos Luis Morales.
According to federal prosecutors, those arrested were part of network that sold medical supplies and equipment to the Social Security system hospitals and other health care institution at inflated prices. Attorney General Diana Salazar said that most of the arrests involve charges of organized crime, embezzlement and price gouging. Among those detained were former and current employees of the hospitals who authorized purchases from the network.
In addition to seizing boxes of Covid-19 tests and face masks at Bucaram’s home, police also found unregistered firearms for which he is also being charged. More supplies were found at the home of his son, Dalo Bucaram, a former National Assemblyman.
In Guayaquil, prosecutor Yanina Villagómez said at least $12 million in medical supplies were sold by the criminal network to the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo IESS hospital. “The vendors were working with purchase agents and others in the hospital, sometimes selling products at 300 percent markups from normal prices. We are still reviewing sales contracts and matching them with inventories at the hospital.”
Among those arrested is the director of the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo hospital.
Purchases by other IESS hospitals, including those in Quito and Cuenca, are also suspected of being associated with those arrested and are under investigation.
According to Salazar, at least three more IESS hospital administrators remain at large. “At least one of those individuals has left the country on a humanitarian flight to Miami,” she said. “It is our intention to find all the fugitives and return them to Ecuador to face prosecution.”