U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson says that the U.S. may soon send Roberto and William Isaias back to Ecuador to face eight-year prison sentences.
Jacobson was in Quito earlier this week to discuss a number of issues with Ecuadorian government officials.
As owners of Filanbanco, the Isaias brothers were central figures in Ecaudor’s 1999 – 2000 banking collapse. The brothers were among the wealthiest people in Ecuador at the time, with interests in sugar, media, banking and other businesses. In the collapse, Filanbanco and dozens of other banks failed, leaving thousands of Ecuadorians without their life savings.
Faced with a lack of cash to meet the run on the bank, Filanbanco was taken over by the government. When the government began to investigate their banking affairs, the Isaias left for Florida where they have lived since 2001 in mansions in Coral Gables.
The Ecuadorian government says it poured more than $1 billion into Filanbanco, but only because the brothers had presented doctored balance sheets that made the bank appear solvent. In a lawsuit filed in Miami, Ecuador’s government contends that the brothers made questionable loans to companies they controlled and used loyal employees to cover them up. Ecuador says that the Isaias took millions of dollars with them when they left for Florida.
The case has been complicated by the fact that the Isaias have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. political campaigns in an attempt, the Ecuadorian officials say, to stay in the U.S. More than $90,000 was contributed to President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.
Two years ago in Ecuador, the Isaias were sentenced, in absentia, to prison for embezzlement and fraud.
Photo caption: Roberto Isaias at his Miami mansion in 2012