An Ecuadorian judge has approved prosecutors’ request to charge former President Lenin Moreno with bribery over a contract for a Chinese-built hydroelectric plant in the South American nation.
The indictment, which includes 37 people in all, links Moreno to work on the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project and states that the defendants received bribes of up to $76m as part of a corruption scheme that operated between 2009 and 2018.
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Moreno, who served during part of that period as vice president under the government of Rafael Correa, denied wrongdoing last month, saying that he had no responsibility in the contracting of the works of the complex.
After the hearing on Sunday, Moreno tweeted that some of the arguments put forward by the Attorney General’s Office were “arbitrary and inhumane”.
Judge Adrian Rojas decided, as a precautionary measure, that Moreno must appear every 15 days before the National Court of Justice.
After the hearing, the Attorney General’s Office said on its Twitter account that Moreno and the rest of the accused will face justice “for their alleged participation in the crime of bribery”.
The alleged bribes represented “the highest amount prosecuted for acts of corruption in Ecuador”, the prosecutor’s office added.
Moreno, who was Ecuadorian president between 2017 and 2021, currently resides in Paraguay and serves as commissioner of the Organization of American States (OAS) for disability affairs.
The hydroelectric plant linked to the case was built by the Chinese company Sinohydro at a cost of $2.245bn.
Ecuador’s Attorney General Diana Salazar said last month China has not responded to a request for assistance in the case.
Sinohydro did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.