Ecuador president refuses to testify over Pandora Papers leaks

Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso speaks to supporters who gathered outside Carondelet presidential palace in Quito, Ecuador, on Oct 20, 2021.
Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso speaks to supporters who gathered outside Carondelet presidential palace in Quito, Ecuador, on Oct 20, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

QUITO (AFP) - Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Wednesday (Oct 20) refused to testify to a parliamentary committee that is investigating revelations about the 65-year-old in the Pandora Papers leaks.

The committee was convened by the opposition-dominated Congress to investigate former banker Lasso's activities in tax havens.

Earlier this month, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) leaked a trove of documents exposing the secret offshore accounts of a host of world leaders, including Mr Lasso.

The leaks claimed Mr Lasso, who assumed office in May, controlled 14 offshore companies, mostly in Panama, and closed them after former leftist president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) barred presidential hopefuls from owning firms in tax havens.

Out of 137 lawmakers, 105 had voted in favour of an investigation to "clarify" whether or not Mr Lasso had broken Ecuadoran law or committed an "ethical" offence.

Mr Lasso issued a statement saying he would not go to Parliament but was available to speak to lawmakers at the seat of government "once all the programmed testimonies have been given".

The President claimed he had "every right" to know what other evidence has been given before testifying himself.

His wife and one of his sons also declined to appear before the committee.

"Neither when submitting my candidacy, nor since then until now, have I violated the aforementioned prohibition," said Mr Lasso.

He claimed he had made "legitimate investments in other countries" that he got rid of to allow him to stand in the election.

In response to Mr Lasso's refusal to appear, committee president Jose Cabascango closed the parliamentary session by summoning the President "for a second time and in a mandatory manner" to appear on Friday before the National Assembly.

In Latin America, the presidents of Chile, Mr Sebastian Pinera, and the Dominican Republic, Mr Luis Abinader, also appeared in the Pandora Papers.

Mr Pinera is the subject of a criminal investigation over the sale of a mine and faces the threat of an impeachment procedure launched by the opposition.