U.S. ambassador says drug money is laundered through football teams, warns of corrput judges

Dec 9, 2023 | 0 comments

United States ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick claimed Thursday that illegal drug money is being laundered through Ecuadorian football teams. He made the statement at the Universidad de las Américas during a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick

“Due to their financial influence, criminal actors are taking advantage of the national passion, football, and sending money through team accounts with the knowledge of some team managers,” Fitzpatrick said. “They use the team accounts, just as they use those of fictitious companies, to wash their faces as well as their money.”

The ambassador did not specify which team accounts he believes have been compromised.

In his comments, Fitzpatrick also claimed that members of Ecuador’s judicial system have been “bought off” by international criminal organizations. “Judges and prosecutors are not innocent spectators of all this and, on the contrary, I believe they are the recipient of large sums of money to not arrest influential gang leaders or to let them go free when they are arrested.”

He said that it should be a priority of Ecuador’s “judicial overseers” to identify, punish and remove corrupt members of the system. “We are seeing some progress in the area in recent months, and it is my hope we will see more.”

The larger concern, Fitzpatrick said, was the effort underway by crime gangs to gain control of entire sectors of the government, such as the judiciary and the police. “This has happened in other countries and Ecuador needs to ensure it does not go any further here,” Fitzpatrick said.

The ambassador said he is hopeful the new government of Daniel Noboa will take seriously the infiltration of government functions by criminal organizations. “I am seeing positive signs of this in the early days of the new administration,” he said.

He added that the naming of a state comptroller is another signal that suspicious financial transactions will be investigated. Xavier Mauricio Torres was appointed to the post last week by the National Assembly. Prior to the appointment, the position had been vacant for almost four years.

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