As if it were a second chapter of the first case that was already judged, this new US tax investigation into bribery in the state-owned Seguros Sucre it expands over time, reveals the participation of more Ecuadorians and details the route of the money, which also passed through entities of the Biscayne Capital Group.
In this case, the amount of bribes reaches $2.1 million which, according to US court documents, were paid by two reinsurance brokers or intermediaries to maintain and obtain new contracts with Seguros Sucre and Seguros Rocafuerteboth under control of the Ecuadorian State.
The investigation not only covers the period of Juan Xavier Ribas Domenechappointed by President Rafael Correa, but extends until 2019, during the government of Lenín Moreno.
Last July 19, The authorities detained in Miami the Ecuadorian American Esteban Merlo Hidalgo, 50, and for this reason they made the investigation public. He was set on $1.5 million bail and released after paying 10% of that amount in cash.
Together with Merlo they are accused the Italian Ecuadorian Christian Patricio Pintado García and the Ecuadorian Luis Lenin Maldonado Matute. Both were “representatives” of Merlo’s intermediary company that participated in the bribery scheme, prosecutors said. They reside in Costa Rica and the United States justice considers them fugitives.
The alleged crimes include violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), money laundering and property transactions derived from illicit activities. If all charges are proven, they could be sentenced to 60 years in prison.
In describing the scheme, prosecutors stated that, in December 2013, Maldonado and Pintado imposed conditions for doing business with the two Ecuadorian insurers on two foreign reinsurance intermediaries. The commission would be divided as follows: 25% for intermediary 1, 25% for intermediary 2 and 50% for “Ecuador”.
Weeks later, in another communication addressed to a broker -sent by Pintado and with a copy to Maldonado- they would explain that this percentage was related to “the commitment” that they had to fulfill with the Ecuadorians “That they have given us the opportunity to obtain these public businesses (local acquisition costs). For this reason it is necessary to keep the commission percentages layered […] The lack of compliance with these commitments with them could cause us the problem of losing the account and not having new opportunities for new public businesses”.
In another email cited in the indictment -sent by Maldonado and with a copy to Pintado- it is stated that a portion of the commission will be paid to “Ecuadorian people involved commercially and politically in obtaining the success of this business […] I can’t be more explicit.”
Seguros Sucre had a monopoly on public sector policies, from vehicles to planes, including hydroelectric plants and tanks, thanks to a provision by the Executive.
In the American indictment, Prosecutors mentioned Ribas Domenech, already convicted in 2021 for receiving bribes and money laundering, and three other Seguros Sucre officials. They were appointed by periods: number one was in office between 2013 and 2017, number two between 2015 and 2019 and number three between 2014 and 2018.
They also cited in the accusation Fernando Martínez Gómez, an Ecuadorian American arrested in New York last March, accused of fraud, because he worked in the private investment funds of the Biscayne Capital Group. In turn, the principals of Biscayne are also accused in New York of an alleged millionaire pyramid scheme and money laundering.
In the insurance bribery scheme, prosecutors said, intermediary companies registered in Ecuador, Panama and Miami were involved. The $ 2.1 million moved through the United States, Panama, Switzerland, Uruguay and the Isle of Man, with a view to losing their trail.
As is now known to have happened in the first Seguros Sucre case, an invitation to the Wimbledon championship appears again in 2016as part of the attention of reinsurance intermediaries for Ecuadorians.
The investigation, in which the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have participated, has accumulated evidence of emails, phone chats, meetings in Miami and of bank transactions.
For this reason, the prosecutors listed twenty transactions based on the three payments made by the intermediaries in Panama and that add up to $2.1 million. In almost all cases, the originator of the bank transfers is Pintado García. However, the authorities do not give the full details of all the movements.
In his account, the money would have been distributed as follows: $381,540 for Ribas in accounts in Switzerland and the United States between March 2014 and August 31, 2015; $109,986 for the official number 2 between August 10, 2016 and April 4, 2018 in the United States, and $ 50 thousand for the official number 3 between September 25, 2015 and October 6, 2016 in the US. In other words, the officials received around 541 thousand dollars.
Martinez’s role, according to court documents, was to be Ribas Domenech’s financial adviser and as such he sent Merlo details of a bank account in Switzerland. He was also in charge of handling an alleged agreement between Merlo’s intermediary company with Ribas to justify the payments.
On the intermediary side: Esteban Merlo received $365,532 in the United Statesof which $102 thousand were paid for the education of a relative; Maldonado Matute $50,000 in the US and Pintado García $20,000 in the Isle of Man. Which gives a sum of 437 thousand dollars.
It remains to be seen how the remaining $1.1 million was distributed.
Today morning Merlo is scheduled to appear before the court.
In Ribas’s confession last year in Miami, the former chairman of the Seguros Sucre board indicated that $2 million of the bribes he received came from Royalty RE, a company that participated in the reinsurance of the CNEL policy in 2016 due to its relationship with Integro, an international brokerage firm with offices in New York and London. The majority shareholder of Royalty RE, which has had various names since its creation in 2003, is Cristian Pintado García. (YO)