Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ex-leader of Ecuador faces charges over Chinese dam, judge approves


Former Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has been indicted on charges of bribery related to the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project. The indictment, which includes 37 individuals, alleges that Moreno was involved in a corruption scheme that operated between 2009 and 2018, and that he received bribes of up to $76m. Moreno, who served as vice president under Rafael Correa during part of that period, has denied any wrongdoing and stated that he had no responsibility in the contracting of the works of the complex.

The decision to charge Moreno was approved by an Ecuadorian judge, Adrian Rojas, who also ruled that Moreno must appear before the National Court of Justice every 15 days as a precautionary measure. Following the hearing, Moreno took to Twitter to criticize the Attorney General’s Office, stating that some of their arguments were “arbitrary and inhumane”. The Attorney General’s Office responded by saying that Moreno and the other accused would face justice “for their alleged participation in the crime of bribery”.

The Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project was built by the Chinese company Sinohydro at a cost of $2.245bn. Ecuador’s Attorney General Diana Salazar has said that China has not responded to a request for assistance in the case. Sinohydro has not yet commented on the matter.

The indictment against Moreno represents the highest amount prosecuted for acts of corruption in Ecuador. The case is part of a wider crackdown on corruption in the country, which has seen several high-profile politicians and businesspeople arrested and charged in recent years.

Moreno served as Ecuadorian president between 2017 and 2021, and currently resides in Paraguay where he serves as commissioner of the Organization of American States (OAS) for disability affairs. His indictment is likely to have significant political implications in Ecuador, where he remains a controversial figure.

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