Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas, on bail for his involvement in the Odebrecht scandal, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison by the Supreme Court for collecting bribes for several million dollars from the Brazilian construction group .
Close to former socialist president Rafael Correa, in conflict with his successor Lenin Moreno, Jorge Glas, 48, and vice-president since 2013, is the highest-ranking political leader in Latin America to be sentenced in the case. .
This vast corruption scandal has plagued even former heads of state, such as the Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the Peruvians Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo.
Current Venezuelan presidents Nicolas Maduro and Peruvian Pedro Pablo Kuczynski have also been implicated.
Jorge Glas appeared before the Criminal Court of the National Court of Quito, the highest court, which sentenced him after three weeks of hearings for unlawful association, along with four other people, including his uncle Ricardo Rivera , through which the Vice President pocketed $ 13.5 million in bribes.
Three other defendants were sentenced to only 14 months in prison because of their “effective cooperation” with the judiciary, according to the decision of the magistrate Edgar Flores read before the Court.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office, which initiated this trial on 24 November, had requested the maximum penalty of six years for this crime of unlawful association.
– New lawsuits? –
The conviction opens the way for possible further charges against Jorge Glas for embezzlement, bribery and / or illicit enrichment, imprescriptible crimes punishable by 13 years’ imprisonment, as well as money laundering, according to legal experts.
Ecuadorian legislation provides for the accumulation of penalties up to double the most serious, without exceeding 40 years imprisonment.
“There are much more important things than the simple wrongful association” in the Odebrecht case, which allegedly paid Ecuador some $ 47.3 million in bribes for public works contracts. said AFP lawyer Ramiro Roman, a member of a civic anti-corruption commission.
The strong man of Correaism is now in danger of losing the post he was elected to in eight months in tandem with Lenin Moreno, which he retained despite being detained on 2 October.
But if he appealed, he could remain in office until the final decision.
If Jorge Glas maintains that he is on leave, which the government does not validate, his lack of power could lead the Congress (parliament) to call for new elections.
– Division of the majority –
President Moreno, who traveled to Europe on Wednesday for an official visit, said Monday that “this week” was “very important in the fight against corruption and I believe strongly in the fight against impunity”.
He said that justice would solve “a case that has upset the country” and warned that neither he nor the people of Ecuador “we will allow a parody of justice (…) nor in this case, nor in any other “.
This case “marks a break with the concealment of corruption that occurred during the government of Rafael Correa” (2007-2017), told AFP Simon Pachano, a political scientist of the Latin American Faculty of Sciences (Flacso) of Quito.
The trial, in which no official of Odebrecht is accused, took place in the midst of a crisis in the ruling Alianza Pais, divided between supporters of Mr Correa and those of Mr Moreno.
Rafael Correa and his ally Jorge Glas, who was in charge of strategic areas, accused Lenin Moreno of joining the opposition and using the fight against corruption to weaken them.