Judge rejects imprisonment of Moreno, orders him to appear monthly at Ecuador embassy in Paraguay

Jun 6, 2023 | 6 comments

National Court Judge Mauricio Espinoza has denied the request of prosecutors to order preventive detention of former president Lenin Moreno and his wife Rocío González in the Sinohydro corruption case. He also ruled that ordering Moreno to report monthly to a Quito court is unreasonable.

Ex-President Lenin Moreno

Instead, Espinoza ordered Moreno and González to appear during the first 10 days of each month at the Ecuadorian consulate in Asunción, Paraguay, where the couple currently live. Espinoza agreed with Moreno’s defense attorney that the former president’s health made it difficult to travel from Paraguay to Ecuador on a monthly basis. The judge said, however, that Moreno and González must appear every four months to court officials in Quito.

Moreno is partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, the result of a gunshot suffered in an attempted robbery 40 years ago.

Espinoza also rejected the prosecution request that Moreno’s daughter, Irina Moreno, be imprisoned until the legal case is resolved.

Moreno and 36 others have been accused of bribery in connection with the construction of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project. According to the Attorney General’s office, the case stems from an investigation of offshore companies allegedly used to conceal illicit payments from a Chinese contractor between 2009 and 2018, when Moreno served as vice president to Rafael Correa.

In addition to Moreno, González and his daughter, two brothers and two sisters-in-laws will be charged, prosecutors claim.

Attorney General Diana Salazar said her investigation “reveals a corruption structure around the Coca Codo Sinclair hydro dam of interstate and transnational scope” that continued throughout the construction of the project. She said details of the case would be revealed at a National Court of Justice hearing March 2.

With a total cost of $2.25 billion, the Coca Codo Sinclair project on the Coca River in Napo Province represented one of the largest public expenditures in Ecuador history.

The bribery charges against Moreno first surfaced in early 2019 when the so-called INA papers, based on the name of a company registered in Belize and Panama, allegedly showed a link between the Moreno family and the Chinese Coca Codo Sinclair contractor, Sinohydro. According to information published on the La Fuente website, the contractor deposited $18 million in a Panamanian bank account that was then dispersed to INA and other offshore accounts.

INA was registered in the name of one of Moreno’s brothers, Edwin Moreno.

In total, Salazar estimates $76 million in bribes were paid by Sinohydro during the construction of Coca Codo Sinclair.

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