QUITO – A judge in Ecuador ordered on Thursday the pre-trial detention of the country’s exiled former president Rafael Correa over his alleged ties to a bribery case involving the tit-for-tat granting of public contracts.
National Judge Daniella Camacho greenlit the request made on Wednesday by Attorney General Diana Salazar and said that the remand in custody was “legal, constitutional and conventional” and therefore “not arbitrary.”
Salazar has been investigating a case called “Bribes 2012-2016” (formerly known as the “Green Rice” case), which allegedly involves four senior former members of Correa’s administration (2007-2017), for whom she also ordered their pre-trial detention on Thursday.
The public prosecutor’s office claims that the investigation has shed light on nearly a dozen elements that appear to be evidence of bribery, illicit association and influence-peddling leading to alleged campaign finance violations of the progressive “Alianza Pais” political movement spearheaded by the former president until 2017.
Camacho said that pre-trial detention was appropriate in the case of the former president due to a lack of alternative measures that would guarantee his appearance before Ecuador’s court system, as he has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since leaving power in May 2017.
The judge pointed out that Correa already has an outstanding arrest warrant for contempt in the case of the attempted kidnapping of opposition politician Fernando Balda in Colombia in 2012.
At the moment, Correa – who has more than a dozen pending cases without having been convicted by Ecuadorian courts – refused to return to the country because he believes he is the victim of political persecution by his successor and arch-nemesis, Lenin Moreno, with whom he has been at odds ever since the latter took over the highest office in the land.
Camacho applied the same precautionary measure on former Vice President Jorge Glas, who was Correa’s second VP between 2013-17.
Glas has been in prison for almost two years, serving a six-year sentence for illicit association in another bribery case related to the Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht, although he has appealed the sentence and the trial will begin on Sept. 11.
Others charged in the “Bribes 2012-2016” case are former Water Secretary Walter Solis and former Administration Secretary Vinicio Alvarado, as well as ex-ministerial advisor Yamil Massuh.
All of them were remanded in custody, while the judge granted the prosecutor’s office requests for a travel ban, the freezing of bank accounts and assets, among other measures, on another 17 suspects.
The high-profile case was launched following the publication by two local digital media outlets investigating the alleged corruption scandal dubbed “Green Rice” that purported to expose the alleged illegal funding of Alianza Pais involving several domestic and international companies, including Odebrecht.