Top Coopera officers convicted of money laundering; they claim political persecution and say they will appeal
The general manager and the chief auditor of the failed Cuenca financial cooperative Coopera were found guilty of money laundering by the Azuay Criminal Trial Court on Monday. The crime carries a prison term of six to nine years.
Chief Judge Carmita Campoverde issued the guilty verdict for general manager Rodrigo Aucay and auditor Raúl Efraín Carpio. The court ruled that a third defendant, chief financial officer Aldo Santiago Calle, did not participate in the crimes.
The three defendants were previously convicted of embezzlement and all remain jailed in Azogues. That conviction carries a prison term of eight years.
Campoverde said the convictions were based on the fact that in 2012 and 2013, 84 money transfers were made between Coopera and foreign accounts amounting to $35,372,930.
The defendants and their attorneys claimed the verdict was a case of “political persecution” and said they would appeal, taking the case to international courts if necessary. Aurelio Aguilar, the lawyer representing Carpio, said that the prosecution failed to prove the illicit origin of the funds.
When the verdict was read, the guilty defendants began to shout and had to be restrained by court officers.
The prosecution said that the laundering was conducted through 12 shell companies set up with fraudulent documents and involved fictitious business transactions in Venezuela for chemicals. Funds passed between accounts in Panama, Switzerland, United States and Venezuela and were transferred between the Central Banks of Venezuela and Ecuador.
According the government, which closed Coopera a year ago, the cooperative suffered a cumulative loss of $57 million, much of it the result of embezzlement and money laundering.
The Coopera failure was one of Ecuador’s largest financial debacles since the country’s banking melt-down of 1999 and 2000. The closure affected more than 100,000 investors, including about 300 North American expats. Although most investors have been repaid by government regulators, those who have not are owed almost half of all deposits on coop books at the time of the closure.
Photo caption: Defendants listen to verdicts in money laundering case yesterday; Photo credit: El Tiempo