Telconet and Satelital TV are investigated for their alleged participation in the Odebrecht corruption network. The Office of the Prosecutor investigates the millionaire investments to build the submarine cable and in the company of Ricardo R., who has been designated as the intermediary of the Vice President to receive the illegal payments.
The State Prosecutor’s Office believes that part of the Odebrecht bribes were intended to be hidden in the Pacific Ocean. That is his hypothesis after ‘diving’ through the financial and corporate labyrinth armed by those involved in this corruption network.
That’s how they built their hypothesis. José Conceição Santos, who was the manager of Odebrecht in Ecuador, confessed that he paid more than $ 13 million to Ricardo R., who introduced himself as the intermediary of Vice President Jorge G., the man who had in his hands the strategic sectors of the country. For the Prosecutor’s Office all that money had to be somewhere.
A journey of the supposed laundering
The inquiry indicates that Odebrecht sent the illegal payments to the offshore company Glory International of Hong Kong. Then this paper company allegedly transferred those resources to an account of the investment company Merrill Lynch, in the United States, and those resources were used to build the Telconet submarine cable.
The owner of that account was Jan Topic, son and partner of Tomislav T., founder of Telconet. Now, the two together, with Ricardo R., will face a criminal proceeding for alleged money laundering, based on the accusation of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the Attorney General’s Office.
Tomislav T. has not hidden his relationship with Ricardo R. In his version, which appears in the tax file, said he has known him for more than 30 years and in the last decade was an intermediary to get investors and businesses.
He argued that those businesses were legal. In one of them, it sought to provide Odebrecht with telecommunications services, but it did not materialize. What did come true was the contact with the Chinese investors of Glory International, represented by a man named Michael Ying.
They offered to finance the submarine laying with $ 30 million, in exchange for 10% of the Cable Andino company, which was to be the co-owner of the optical fiber.
Ricardo R. agreed with Tomislav T. He said he met Michel Ying in Quito and at that meeting he mentioned that he wanted to invest in telecommunications. Then he thought of Topic and his idea of the submarine cable. The contract between Glory and Telconet was signed in France in April 2012, but it only carried the rubrics of Tomislav and Jan Topic because Ricardo R. would be in charge of delivering the document so that the Chinese would sign.
Tomislav T. stressed that Glory failed in its commitment and only disbursed $ 13.5 million in the Merrill Lynch account. That was the only payment and that’s why they were taken out of business Jan Topic gave a similar version in the Office of the Prosecutor and explained that there was never a personal contact with the owners of Glory or with Michael Ying, since this was done by videoconference and through emails.
Tax investigators believe that Glory’s investors do not exist and that Ying is just a screen to cover Odebrecht’s bribes. They wonder why Chinese investors did not try to claim benefits for the money given and left without saying anything.
The Odebrecht head in Ecuador, José Santos, helped reinforce that hypothesis. He said he now knows that the $ 2 million he gave Ricardo R. so that Jorge G. did not put obstacles in the way of Odebrecht’s return to the country went to Topic accounts.
Santos confessed that he did not include that story in his initial statement because he did not have a clear idea of the route that was used for the payment. This path was cleared after Topic delivered $ 2.5 million to the courts, claiming that he received that money from the construction company of the South for the business that was cut short with Odebrecht.
The defense of the Vice President rejected that version. His lawyer, Eduardo Franco, asserted that they will demonstrate his total innocence. But Santos and the Prosecutor’s Office are convinced that Ricardo R. and Jorge G. had an association to benefit illegally, as allegedly happened with Telconet’s submarine cable.
On August 21, 2015, with the presence of Vice President Jorge G., Telconet inaugurated its submarine cables. This is a work of 6,000 kilometers in length, which started in Florida (USA) and ended in Manta (Manabí).
Second journey of the money
Ricardo R. also benefited from this work. According to Tomislav T., he paid him $ 5.4 million for the negotiations with Odebrecht and Chinese investors. This payment was not in cash but through high quality internet service for Televisión Satelital, a company that belonged to Ricardo R. and that now belongs to his children.
That television channel is also in the investigation orbit of the Prosecutor’s Office, which opened a file for alleged money laundering to verify its financial movements. This would be the second route through which they tried to hide the bribes of the Brazilian construction company.
Satellite TV is watched by the UHF frequency and on its grill sports programs stand out. According to his last account rendering (2016), he had annual income of $ 3.8 million and liabilities of $ 3.1, leaving a profit of $ 673,418.
In the last four years, that channel had incomes of more than $ 6 million; according to a report from the Financial Analysis Unit that is part of the judicial process against Ricardo R.
For the Office of the Prosecutor, these incomes may also be linked to Odebrecht. The presumption is that the money that Ricardo R. received from offshore Columbia Management was used for the payment of the company’s workers and to support the maintenance of the channel.
The Prosecutor’s suspicion is based on the testimony of Alfredo A., who worked on TV Satelital and was supposedly Ricardo R.’s man of trust, to such an extent that he knew the keys to access their emails and the chats of their smartphones.
Alfredo A. said that for many months the payments of their salaries were made in cash. In his testimony he asserted that he handled the “small box” of the channel and the cash was always delivered by Ricardo R.
The testimony of Alfredo A. is rejected by other employees of the channel. Luis Calle, who is a representative of the company, said that his salary was always canceled with checks from the Satelital Television account. And he added that Ricardo R. was a business advisor for the channel.
Calle said that Telconet has provided broadband service to the channel since 2010 to date. From there the route is a circle that returns where it started, to the versions of Tomislav T. and Ricardo R., who assured that this service is the payment for contacts with the Chinese and Odebrecht, although there is no document certifying that, that is true, since there is only the word of both of them.
Zavala says that the Telconet business was legal
The defense of Tomislav T. and the Telconet company is confident that the suspicions of the Attorney General will be resolved and it will be evident that the submarine cable business was carried out in compliance with the law.
The lawyer Xavier Zavala Egas said that during the process, at the right time, it will be shown that the company Glory International and Michael Ying do exist, because it is a company recognized in China.
This was one of the doubts of the investigators of the Public Ministry.
Zavala acknowledged that they did receive money from the Asian firm for the construction of submarine cables in exchange for a percentage of shares in the company Cable Andino. However, Glory International did not comply with the agreement and was separated from the business.
Since its creation, Cable Andino has not lost any percentage of its shareholding package. For Zavala, this would show that there was no other beneficiary and, therefore, you can not speculate saying that this business served for third parties.
The lawyer also said that it was not the responsibility of his defendants (Topic) to verify the origin of the money that Glory International delivered, whose movement is known to the Hong Kong bank, which received that transfer. Said lender must inform the authorities of where the resources arrived. He indicated that they will collaborate with the justice so that it solves any incognito that it had. The prosecutor of the Transparency Unit, Ruth Amoroso, leads the investigation against the businessmen and against Ricardo R., for the alleged crime of money laundering.
For next Monday, Amoroso is expected to present her formal accusation in the Criminal Unit Number Two of Guayaquil. This is the first case where Tomislav and Jan Topic are investigated. The same does not happen with Ricardo R., who is also accused of the alleged crime of illicit association and bribery in the Odebrecht construction network. (I)