Ecuador’s attorney general’s office says an investigation is underway following the discovery Thursday of a hidden camera and microphone in the office of President Lenin Moreno.
The camera, which was operating when it was discovered, was found by the presidential protection service during a route check of the office.
Moreno said he learned after the discovery that the camera was installed “seven or eight years ago” by former president Rafael Correa. “President Correa did not offer the courtesy of telling me about the camera and neither did his staff,” he said. “This is extremely disturbing.”
A visibly angry Moreno made the announcement during a Friday morning cabinet meeting in Guayaquil.
At a press conference in Quito, Minister of Defense Miguel Carvajal called the location of the camera “highly unusual and very disturbing,” and welcomed the investigation. “The presidential protection service, which I am responsible for, received no prior information about the existence of this device in the president’s office. More than anyone, I want to know the facts about what is going on,” he said.
Despite his anger at not being told of the camera, Moreno said he would withhold judgement until investigators complete their work. “It is very suspicious that the camera was in operation when we found it, and the fact that it can be monitored anywhere in the world by cell phone or internet is especially worrying,” he said.
Federal prosecutors began their investigation Friday afternoon, interviewing four members of the presidential protection service. Attorney General Carlos Baca said he couldn’t rule out espionage as a motive but said it is too early to tell. Under Ecuadorian law, it is illegal to secretly film or record a citizen without his or her consent, with penalties ranging up to three years in prison. The penalty for espionage carries a seven-year sentence.