Investigation of Lasso’s off-shore accounts begins amid National Assembly fight for control
Although the National Assembly is in unanimous agreement that President Guillermo Lasso should be investigated for his off-shore financial holdings, there is disagreement about who should control the inquiry.
Following his announcement that Assembly’s Audit Commission President Fernando Villavicencio would meet Monday with Lasso, the National Assembly voted Sunday to assign the investigation to the Constitutional Guarantees Commission. Based on the vote, Assembly President Guadalupe Llori prohibited Villavicencio from meeting with the president.
“The investigation will be handled exclusively by the Constitutional Guarantees Commission, which will be responsible for collecting all information and documents in the case and conducting the proceedings,” Llori said. “No other meetings or inquiries into this issue are authorized.”
Calls for an investigation followed the release of the Pandora Papers which revealed that Lasso held off-shore accounts managed by a Panamanian law firm.
Villavicencio is claiming that, under Assembly rules, the Audit Commission should manage the investigation and calls Sunday’s vote a “conspiracy” and a “gross violation of the established rules.”
Villavicencio, a member of Alianza Honestidad, as well as members of Lasso’s Creo party, say the assignment of the investigation to the Constitutional Guarantees Commission could lead to “witch hunt” that will lead Lasso’s impeachment.
“Whoever controls the investigation controls the fate of the president,” says Jorge Castro, a former assemblyman, political consultant and Quito talk show host. “The majority of the Assembly is opposed to Lasso and his proposals so the investigation will very likely determine his future. Even if it is found that what Lasso says is true, that he closed the accounts in question following passage of the 2017 law and before he ran for president, it is unclear if the matter will be settled.”
In a statement issue last Sunday, Lasso insisted he is in full compliance with the law and liquidated his foreign holdings in 2017.
Castro cites comments from members of the Correista (UNES) and Pachakutik Assembly delegation that even if Lasso has followed the letter of the law, the inquiry will want to know where his money came from and where it went after the accounts were closed. “[Andres] Arauz is already talking about a ‘democratic restoration’, meaning the dismissal of Lasso from office, based simply on the fact that the off-shore holdings existed.” Arauz, a Correista, narrowly lost to Lasso in the May presidential runoff.
Castro adds: “Of course, if it turns out that Lasso lied about his accounts and what he did with them, he’s a goner.”
According to Assembly rules, the investigation must conclude within 30 days.