The Parliament and the Comptroller’s Office of Ecuador put a stop to the process against Lasso for the Pandora Papers: what now?

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On Tuesday night, the National Assembly of Ecuador approved a motion in which it “exhorts” the president of the country, Guillermo Lasso, to attend a session of the plenary session of Parliament to explain his possible direct or indirect relationship on the ownership of goods and assets in tax havens, following the publication of the Pandora Papers.

This motion, which received 82 votes in favor, 33 against and 20 abstentions, was presented during the debate on a report on the presumed involvement of the president with offshore companies, prepared by the Commission for Constitutional Guarantees, Human Rights, Collective Rights and Interculturality of the Ecuadorian Parliament.

But, instead of the report being approved, only the resolution was given way. In addition to exhorting the president to go to Congress, it was approved, in the same motion, to order the General Comptroller of the State (CGE), the State Attorney General (FGE), the Superintendency of Banks and the Financial and Economic Analysis Unit (UAFE) to review Lasso’s accounts, fiduciary participations, properties and tax returns, in relation to the Pandora Papers.

Also, it was agreed to forward the report of the Constitutional Guarantees Commission to the control institutions; and that they report to Parliament every 30 days, for a year, the progress of the investigations.

Previously, two other motions were put to the vote, but they did not pass. One was presented by Fernando Cabascango, president of the Constitutional Guarantees Commission, who proposed “summon” Lasso within 30 days to appear before the plenary session of Congress and answer questions from legislators; while the other posed the start of the impeachment process against the president.

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The report’s conclusions

The investigation of the Constitutional Guarantees Commission of Parliament started from the leak made by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which indicates that the president had links with 10 companies and ‘offshore’ trusts in Panama and the states of Dakota of the South and Delaware, in the USA.

Specifically, according to the leaked documents, Lasso has had ties to: Bretten Trust, Liberty US Trust, Bernini Foundation, Bretten Holdings, Da Vinci Foundation, Real Estate Foundation, Nora Group Investment Corp., Pietro Overseas SA, Positano Trade LLC and Tintoretto International Foundation.

Bretten Trust and Liberty US Trust were created in 2017, and Lasso authorized the transfer to those two trusts of companies operated by two Panamanian private interest foundations, called Bernini and Barberini. The other entities mentioned were dissolved.

The commission, in its report, determined that Lasso, when registering his presidential candidacy on September 23, 2020, breached the Organic Law for the Application of the Popular Consultation, also known as the Law of the Ethical Pact, which was approved after a popular consultation in 2017, which “prohibits candidates for public office of popular election in Ecuador from being direct or indirect owners of goods or capital in tax havens.”

It was also concluded that the president’s links with ‘offshore’ companies “configure a scenario of governance crisis, because in that context it would not have room for maneuver to carry out the National Development Plan, and its social credibility would collapse. “

Furthermore, that this situation would generate “a scene of social upheaval”, because it radically alters the ethical and deontological coordinates of the political system, and makes possible the anomie of the institutions.

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The report makes it clear that the CGE, the Internal Revenue Service (SRI), the FGE and the Superintendency of Banks did not provide the information required by this legislative commission during the investigation, arguing that it is “confidential.”

The parliamentary commission recommended, as was proposed in one of the motions of Tuesday’s debate, that Parliament call the president to appear; and that it requires the lifting of the restriction on all information classified as reserved by State institutions, related to transactions and assets on ongoing investigations related to Lasso.

The file in the Comptroller’s Office

In addition to what happened in the National Assembly, on the same Tuesday it was learned that the CGE shelved the process of the special examination that it carried out against the Ecuadorian president for the Pandora Papers.

According to Opinion No. 001-DNA1-2021, signed by the comptroller general of the surrogate State, Carlos Riofrío González, the process was archived “by not finding objective elements“that demonstrate that Lasso, on the dates of registration of the candidacy for the election of president and possession for that position, was the direct or indirect owner of property or capital in jurisdictions or regimes considered as tax havens.

Nor did they find evidence that the president held the status of manager in companies established, incorporated or domiciled in tax havens.

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Another thing that the Comptroller notes is that the US state of South Dakota, where the Bretten Trust and Liberty US Trust firms are located, named in the Pandora Papers, “It is not considered a tax haven or preferential tax regime”.

While the Comptroller’s Office was carrying out this process, Lasso sent that institution the certified documentation that it considered pertinent to prove its separation from the ‘offshore’ companies for which it was included in the Pandora Papers.

After knowing the file of the process, the president celebrated on his social networks. “When one works transparently, the truth always prevails“, wrote.

What do Ecuadorians say?

The firm Perfiles de Opinion carried out a poll in the country, in which they asked questions to the population related to the publication of the Pandora Papers.

78.05% of those consulted consider it very serious (48.76%) or something serious (29.29%) that the President of the Republic presumably has his money in tax havens.

Likewise, 54.82% of those surveyed indicate that they have not seen clarifications from the president about the Pandora Papers and 36.11% consider that they have been insufficient.

Regarding the investigations, 71.43% of the interviewees trust little (41.90%) or not at all (29.53%) that the State institutions will carry out a fair and impartial investigation into this case.

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