WorldThe offshore network of Guillermo Lasso, the banker who became president of...

The offshore network of Guillermo Lasso, the banker who became president of Ecuador

President Guillermo Lasso buried in April, in his third candidacy, 14 years of progressive governments in Ecuador. With a style diametrically opposed to that of his predecessors, Rafael Correa and Lenín Moreno, Lasso is a conservative and successful businessman who was director of Banco de Guayaquil, one of the largest in the country. In the last elections, he was the candidate who declared having paid the most taxes: 4.5 million dollars (about 24.15 million reais) in the last five years. But part of his heritage hadn’t been in Ecuador for years.

Lasso has turned to up to 14 opaque financial companies in Panama and the United States, as the Pandora Papers, a global investigation coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in which EL PAÍS participated and which the newspaper The Universe led in Ecuador.

Before moving on to his third presidential candidacy, the president got rid of a large part of the network. offshore that he had accumulated in recent years, something that had not happened in his previous attempts. Lasso acted after correismo promoted, in 2017, a law to prohibit candidates from being beneficiaries of companies in tax havens. Currently, 10 of the 14 companies are inactive and about the other four the president denies any relationship or benefit.

“I have always complied with the Ecuadorian law that prohibits candidates and public employees from maintaining companies offshore, as I have indicated in my sworn statements,” Lasso responded to a letter sent by the ICIJ and the The Universe.

Most of its companies, in which the banker was the main beneficiary, were based in Panama. In the event of death, the benefits would be passed on to his wife, María de Lourdes Alcívar, and their five children.

At the end of 2017, two trust funds were established in South Dakota (United States), the Liberty Trust and the Bretten Trust, which kept the shares of most of the dissolved companies. In relation to these trust funds, Lasso states in his response: “I have no ownership, control, benefit or interest of any kind” with these entities. In the documents obtained from the Pandora Papers the beneficiaries of these are not indicated.

A life linked to the banking sector

Lasso presents himself as a man deeply connected to his family. In his electoral campaign, he was always surrounded by his numerous relatives, whom he considered the pillar of his life. His three male children followed in their father’s footsteps. Two currently work at Banco de Guayaquil, headed by the patriarch between 1994 and 2012 and in which he is one of the largest shareholders, and another works at Banco Banisi, an entity in Panama that belongs to the trustee.

Lasso has a company called Banisi Holding SA, which owns that bank, as he acknowledged in 2016. “I have a bank in Panama that is transparently constituted,” he said at the time. The president now insists that this is a legal activity and that it has its origins in Ecuadorian laws, also promulgated by correismo, which prevent bankers from investing in their own country, which would have led him to seek to extend his assets abroad. “This use represents the ordinary and legal organization of lawful international activities”, he says.

Banco Banisi was created in 2007 in Panama and operates as a financial institution in that country. In February 2014, Banco de Guayaquil, Banisi’s sole shareholder, sold 100% of its shares to Banisi Holding SA The directors of the holding were Guillermo Lasso, María de Lourdes Alcívar and Santiago Lasso Alcívar.

In the Ecuador investigation participated Mónica Almeida and Paul Mena M., journalists from El Universo.

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