Interpol has issued an international alert for the former President of Ecuador, Jamil Mahuad.
Mahuad, a lecturer at Harvard University, is wanted in Ecuador over allegations of embezzlement during his time in office in the 1990s. The former president, who denies the charges, fled Ecuador after a coup in 2000 and moved to the United States.
During the 1999 banking crisis, Mahuad froze bank accounts and replaced the Ecuadorean currency, the Sucre, with the dollar. During the crisis, billions of dollars were lost, wiping out personal savings of many Ecuadorians.
Although he was blamed by some economists for ignoring the warning signs of the crisis, he has also been applauded for converting the country to the dollar.
The government blamed the former president for the events – which saw more than 20 banks shut down – and started a lawsuit against him in 2000. In 2011, Interpol rejected Ecuador’s first request to issue an international warrant against Mahuad, arguing it was a “political case”.
But on Tuesday the Ecuadorean Interior Minister, Jose Serrano, welcomed the inclusion of the former president’s name on Interpol’s wanted list. It means Mahuad may now be detained and extradited to Ecuador to face charges which could see him jailed for between eight and 12 years.
“There’s no political persecution here. What Ecuadorean justice seeks is the punishment of common criminal acts,” Serrano told reporters in the capital, Quito.
Mahuad took office in January 1998, as Ecuador was dangerously close to war with neighbouring Peru over border disputes.
But months later he signed a peace deal with his Peruvian counterpart, Alberto Fujimori. The decision led to both being nominated for the Nobel peace prize.
Mahuad was ousted by indigenous protesters backed by the military in January 2000. He was replaced by his vice-president, Gustavo Noboa.
Credit: BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/new; Photo caption: Mahuad in 1999.