Although he claims he did nothing wrong, President Guillermo Lasso faces mounting pressure, including calls for a National Assembly investigation, following the release of his financial records in the so-called Pandora Papers. The records show that the president held off-shore investments managed by a Panamanian law firm that helped shield from public view the financial holdings of hundreds of wealthy clients.
In a Wednesday letter, Fernando Villavicencio, president of the National Assembly’s Audit Commission, said the president must “clarify” details of his investments and answer questions about why he maintained off-shore accounts through “shell” companies. Members of the Pachakutik and UNES [Correista] parties demanded that a full investigation begin immediately, suggesting that Lasso may have violated Ecuadorian law and evaded taxes.
Also on Wednesday, former presidential candidate Yaku Pérez, who narrowly lost to Lasso in the February elections, filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office asking for a criminal investigation. “The constitution and Ecuador’s penal code demand cases of corruption and tax evasion by public figures be fully investigated and that the guilty parties pay for their crimes,” Pérez said. “I believe crimes have been committed in this case.”
He added: “I do not accept his [Lasso’s] denial and explanation since he was a candidate for president in 2013 when he was making these clandestine deals.”
In a Sunday statement, following the release of the Pandora Papers, Lasso said he sold all his overseas investments following passage of a 2017 law outlawing such holdings for public office-holders, government employees and candidates for office. He claimed the investments were legal prior to the law and that he had paid all applicable national and international taxes on his investments.
The off-shore investments of former president Lenin Moreno were also published in the Pandora Papers. Like Lasso, Moreno claims he repatriated his off-shore money following the enactment of the 2017 law.
The Pandora Papers is the disclosure of almost 12 million leaked documents that reveal hidden wealth, tax avoidance and, in some cases, money laundering by 160 of the world’s richest people, including current and former political figures. More than 600 journalists in 117 countries collected and investigated the leaked files for months before their Sunday release. The journalists say more disclosures are forthcoming.