The construction company China International Water & Electric (CWE) had been building the Toachi-Pilatón hydroelectric plant for six days when it contracted the cargo transport service with a company that did not have trucks. He paid him $ 297,000.
The contracted company, Cambioil S. A., received the money ten days after Eduardo Acosta Rivera took over as its legal representative. He is the first brother of the then Minister of Finance, Patricio Rivera.
Both are very close. Acosta Rivera was appointed advisor to the Financial and Economic Analysis Unit (UAFE) in 2016, a few weeks after this institution became dependent on the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Policy, which at that time was under the command of Patricio Rivera.
CWE had obtained a $ 240 million contract to build Toachi-Pilatón offering financing from China. That money never arrived, but the work was saved thanks to the Bank of the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (Biess). In May 2011, this Biess investment was finalized and on the 26th the work started. On June 1, CWE hired Cambioil to provide freight transportation service. The owner of this company, Manuel Jácome Peña, gave a copy of the contract to THE UNIVERSE, last week.
Jácome is an accountant who worked for the political operator César Mancheno Vargas and his ex-wife Olinka Vélez Rodríguez, who contributed to the campaign of Irina Cabezas for assemblyman Alianza PAIS (AP), in 2009.
Jácome explained that Cambioil had no trucks and that to provide the service to CWE it subcontracted the Guayaquil company Elitec SA However, this company, which was dedicated to the import of wines, was dissolved in 2009. Jácome offered to deliver the agreement with Elitec, but he did not do it until the close of this edition.
Yes, he gave copies of the bills that Cambioil issued to CWE for $ 300,000 and the minutes of reception of the service. These documents are dated September 5, 2011.
Two weeks later, on the 20th, Acosta Rivera was appointed manager and legal representative of Cambioil. The payment came into a company account on September 30, according to Jácome.
For that bank account, the ex-minister’s cousin denounced Jácome in June 2012.
Acosta Rivera indicated in the accusation that the accountant proposed him to be an honorary representative of Cambioil and that he accepted because they had eight years of friendship. What I did not know, he added, is that there was such an account. “(Jácome) abused my trust and used my name and falsified my signature to appropriate the money,” he said in his complaint.
In an interview with EL UNIVERSO, both pointed out that everything was a misunderstanding and that there was no falsification or damage. They reported that Acosta Rivera joined Cambioil because he is an expert in security and the company was going to provide that kind of services, but that the business did not materialize.
The two also denied that the cousin of the former minister has benefited from the money from CWE. Acosta Rivera argued that the payment was for the contract that was signed three months before he represented Cambioil. “The fact that Patricio is my cousin should not give room for misunderstandings,” he said.
This newspaper requested an interview with CWE and consulted Patricio Rivera by mail, but did not receive any answers.
Due to the revelations of the Panama Papers published by this Journal in 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (SRI) sanctioned CWE for subcontracts without support in Toachi-Pilatón.
A tax audit questioned two contracts that CWE signed with the Quality consultancy Hispania S. L. for $ 13.8 million. The first was subscribed on June 1, 2011 and the other, two months later.
According to the auditors, CWE could not prove that it did receive the service, despite the fact that it presented the contracts, reports, invoices and purchase liquidations.
This report was made with the support of the Initiative for Investigative Journalism in the Americas, promoted by the International Center for Journalists and Connects.
The ghost companies
Cambioil is not the only business of accountant Manuel Jácome Peña, 49 years old. Both his personal RUC and that of another of his companies, Tecnativa del Ecuador SA, are registered under the trade name of Workcomti SA
In 2016, SRI found a ghost company called Workcomti S.A., which had billed $ 15.4 million. According to the analysis carried out by this newspaper, CWE and China CAMC Engineering are among its alleged customers, with invoices for $ 481,000.
Jácome assured that this was just a coincidence. He indicated that he chose that commercial name to give the idea of ”contingent work” (Workcomti).
He said that an employee of his, who supervised a work in the Amazon, justified some expenses with invoices from the phantom company Workcomti and that’s why the Prosecutor asked him for information three weeks ago in an investigation.
In the records of the Superintendence of Companies, who appears as president of Workcomti, registers lawsuits for theft and drugs. His sister said he has been in prison for two years. “My brother could not sign anything … He is a sick person,” he said.
The alleged owners of Workcomti are Roberto Rosendo Rodríguez Balda and Óscar Daniel Gaibor Méndez. This Diary could not contact them. Their names appear in seven ghost companies.
Among them is Antologroup S.A., created by the merchant Lizandro Velasco. He indicated that he closed that company and that his signature was falsified to reactivate it.
One of her employees, Érika Vera, had something similar happen to her. She is part of the corporate record of Rivieracorp C. A., which belongs to Olinka Vélez, the AP financier who was a client of Jácome. He led the accounting of that company.
When reviewing the papers that associate her with Rivieracorp, Vera commented: “I am surprised because I have not signed those documents. No idea that I had a company. “
The records show that he bought Rivieracorp shares in November 2008.
On the 15th of that month, Olinka Vélez was appointed president, according to the registration of the Superintendency.
Vélez said she does not know Érika Vera and that she bought Rivieracorp in 2009 from a lawyer friend. She considered that her appointment as president a year before must be an error in the Superintendency’s record. Shortly after acquiring Rivieracorp, he said, he had to leave the administration due to health problems and entrusted it to Jácome.
A network of ghost companies
The ghost company Workcomti S.A., whose name coincides with the commercial name of Manuel Jácome Peña, is part of a network of 34 ghost companies that billed $ 18.2 million to Chinese contractors. These companies share partners and administrators or they coincide in the address and contact telephone numbers.
The police found a checkbook of Workcomti S. A. in a house searched in a case of possible tax fraud against the accountant Jaime Gutiérrez Elvay. He and three other defendants were dismissed. (I)