The diligence started a little before 10:00 on this Wednesday, January 23, 2019. In the National Court of Justice, the former vice-president of the Republic, María Alejandra Vicuña, was expected, but only her lawyer, Ana María Ontaneda, attended.
With her in the room and the presence of the Attorney General, Ruth Palacios, plus a representative of the State Attorney General, the national judge Ivan Saquicela began the hearing against the ex-employee, investigated for an alleged crime of concussion.
The case broke out after the supposed illicit collection of money was known to her former collaborators Ángel Sagbay and Karla Obando, during the period 2011-2013, when Vicuña was an assembly member of the official Alianza País movement.
Prosecutor Palacios arrived with documents and presented 21 elements to support her theory. Among these indications are, for example, Sagbaya’s sworn assertions. He had declared in the Notary Third of Quito, that he had to make financial contributions to stay in office. The money collected would have been for the Alianza Bolivariana Alfarista (ABA), in which Vicuña militates until now.
The Prosecutor maintained that each month between USD 300 and USD 1 400 were deposited in an account of the former vice president. In addition, the report of the Financial and Economic Analysis Unit (UAFE) was presented, which states that between 2008 and 2017, the former staff had registered revenues of USD 1.2 million.
However, she had paid USD 512 000 for income tax. With these and other 19 elements, the Office of the Prosecutor initially requested that preventive detention be ordered against the ex-legislator. In addition, he asked that she be prohibited from selling the assets and that her accounts be immobilized for USD 23,300, which apparently is not justified.
Prosecutor Palacios indicated that with the elements found it was considered that there is a danger that Vicuña will escape and that her appearance in the judicial process is not guaranteed. Ontaneda rejected these assertions and recalled that her client has presidential security and that the military accompany her all the time.
In addition, she presented documents of current mortgages and certificates that guarantee that a minor is in her charge. Based on this documentation, the defense requested that the tax petition be reviewed and that other measures be ordered other than preventive detention. The Prosecutor’s Office accepted that request and asked that the country be banned and the sale of the assets prohibited.
The judicial action in the morning was suspended after noon and it was reinstated at 5:00 p.m., to analyze the orders of Ruth Palacios. After studying the case, the judge effectively banned Vicuña from leaving the country. It must be presented every eight days before the surrogate president of the Provincial Court of Justice of Guayas, on Monday from 08:00 to 10:00.
The magistrate warned that if she does not comply with the measures, he will be able to order preventive detention. Saquicela also prohibited the sale of an apartment located in Quito. With this, the investigations will continue. If the crime is proven, the ex-defendant could face sentences of between three and five years.
The Criminal Code (Article 281) says that public officials, by themselves or through third parties, are prohibited from ordering or demanding the delivery of rights, dues, contributions, income, interest, salaries or gratuities not owed.
Vicuña’s lawyer said that the money received by her client was delivered voluntarily. However, the Attorney General’s Office warned that Vicuña has not justified what happened to that money, how it was used and if it was finally transferred to the accounts of ABA.
According to information from the national treasury of Alianza País, there are no Vicuña or Bolivarian Alliance deposits to that political movement. During the investigations, data were reviewed between May 2011 and May 2013, when Sagbay was a Vicuña collaborator. The Attorney General’s Office also filed charges against Vicuña. (I)