U.S. ambassador to Ecuador pledges help in investigation of IESS hospital corruption case
United States Ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick says the U.S. stands ready to assist in the investigation of an alleged criminal network that overcharged public hospitals for medical supplies. Referring to the fact that three fugitives in the case are living in Miami, he said that if the facts show they were involved in the crime they will be returned to Ecuador to face justice. “We do not want thieves or their money in the U.S.”
Fitzpatrick added that the alleged crime was especially disturbing since it involved theft of public funds intended to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than a dozen arrests have been made in the case for the sale of medical supplies, including Covid-19 test kits and personal protection gear, to Social Security hospitals in Guayaquil and Duran. Prosecutors say that some items were marked up more than 1000 percent over pre-Covid prices. Hospital purchase agents were also arrested.
Among those being sought are former National Assemblyman Dalo Bucaram, his wife, former National Assemblywoman Gabriela Pazmiño and his brother, Michel Bucaram. The three are currently staying in a Miami house owned by Daniel Salcedo who was injured in a small plane crash in Peru as he attempted the evade arrest. In a Facebook interview, Dalo Bucaram admitted that he and his brother are partners of Salcedo.
Former president Abdalá Bucaram, Dalo and Michel Bucaram’s father, is under house arrest in Guayaquil for his alleged role in the sales as well as for illegal possession of a firearm.
Fitzpatrick made his offer of assistance during a visit to Manta on Tuesday when he delivered a shipment of Covid-19 biosafety gear donated by the U.S. He said the U.S. is awaiting more information before it will begin extradition proceedings against the Bucarams or conduct a bank search for stolen money. “We will work through the proper legal channels to seek justice in the matter,” he said.
Dalo Bucaram said he, his wife and brother may pursue political asylum in the U.S., claiming the charges against them amount to political persecution. He compared his case to that of former president Rafael Correa, a fugitive living in Belgium. “We are victims of a corrupt justice system,” he said. “As Rafael said, it is all a show.”