Ecuador opens probe of ex-President Correa over debt operations

Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa talks to Reuters, in Quito, Ecuador January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Tapia

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador’s state prosecutors’ office said on Wednesday that it had opened an investigation of former President Rafael Correa and 10 former officials for alleged mismanagement of public debt during the last five years of his administration.

“There were irregularities in the use of public debt in the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Central Bank of Ecuador, the National Planning Secretariat and other institutions (...) between January 1, 2012 and May 24, 2017,” the prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

The investigation is based on an audit by the national comptroller that concluded that Correa and others changed the formula for calculating the country’s debt to GDP ratio and refused to release certain documents.

Those under investigation include three former finance ministers and seven other former officials.

Reuters was unable to obtain comment from Correa, who lives in Belgium. Three advisors who live in Ecuador did not answer calls seeking comment.

Correa borrowed heavily during his 10 years in office, in part through oil-for-loan arrangements with China and Thailand that helped finance the government spending that made him popular.

Prosecutors have accused these officials of violating public debt regulations by negotiating up-front payments for future oil deliveries without registering the operations as indebtedness.

Correa has defended the financial operations and has said he is victim of political persecution by President Lenin Moreno, his former vice president.

Reporting Alexandra Valencia Writing by Brian Ellsworth