Judge to decide Moreno’s fate following detention request by prosecutors; Lasso’s brother-in-law released; Alausí landslide death toll rises to 43

Apr 20, 2023 | 14 comments

Ecuador’s Attorney General has formally requested that former President Lenín Moreno and his wife Rocío González be held in preventive detention. Associate Attorney General Wilson Toainga made the request to criminal court Judge Mauricio Espinosa at a Wednesday hearing in Quito. Espinosa did not say when he would announce a decision.

Moreno, his wife and 36 others are under investigation for accepting bribes from the Chinese construction company Sinohydro.

The bodies of four more victims of the March 26 Alausí landslide were pulled from the rubble on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Toainga says Moreno and González should be held in prison or under house arrest for failing to make court ordered appearances at the prosecutor’s office in Quito. In total, Toainga says that 10 of the 37 defendants failed to appear for their appointments.

In his presentation at Wednesday’s hearing, Toainga asked Judge Toainga to initiate an Interpol arrest warrant for Moreno and González if they fail to return to Ecuador. The couple currently lives in Asunción, Paraguay where Moreno serves as chief commissioner for Disability Affairs for the Organization of American States (OAS).

At the hearing, Moreno’s attorney David Mesa argued that the former president was not able to travel from Asunción to Quito due to health reasons. In addition to complications with his paralysis, Mesa said Moreno suffers from dysphagia and urethrorrhagia. He showed the judge medical charts to back the claim. “He has been hospitalized twice since November and we advised the court of this when he was ordered to appear in Ecuador,” Mesa said. “He is not simply ignoring an order of the court, he explained that it was impossible to appear and offered the alternative of appearing by internet link from the Ecuadorian consular’s office in Asunción.

According to prosecutors, Sinohydro paid $76 million in bribes to the 37 defendants during the construction of the $2 billion Coca-Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project. Moreno, González and their daughter are accused of receiving $660,000 through off-shore bank accounts.

Toainga claims that corruption is part of the reason for recurring mechanical and environmental problems at the Coca-Codo plant, which has never operated above 50% of its intended capacity.

Lasso’s brother-in-law is released
Danilo Carrera, President Guillermo Lasso’s brother-in-law, called his Tuesday night detention by police an “outrage and an insult.” Carrera was apprehended at the Guayaquil airport as he prepared to board a flight to New York.

“I have been a sports leader and an honest businessman for more than six decades,” he said Wednesday in a statement following his questioning by prosecutors in a case involving corruption in public companies and alleged ties to the Albanian mafia. “I have never been arrested and cannot understand why I was prevented from traveling since I have always been available to answer questions. I don’t understand how I could be detained without the order of judge.”

The Attorney General’s office confirmed that Carrera, who is president of the Ecuadorian Tennis Federation, was not arrested Tuesday night and was only needed for questioning. Prosecutors say he was released following an interview and is free to travel.

Alausí landslide death toll rises to 43
The confirmed death toll in the March 26 landslide in Alausí has risen to 43, the Alausí Fire Department reported Wednesday. It said that the search continues for the missing, which it estimated to be “about 30.”

A fire department spokeswoman said it cannot provide an exact count of the missing. “The families of many of those believed buried have moved out of town and the general disruption of the disaster make it difficult to compile accurate information.”

Working with heavy equipment, rescue teams recovered four bodies on Tuesday and Wednesday but said efforts were hampered by rain and the fear of additional landslides.

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