Ecuadorean president fled with bags of cash Just before his ouster, Bucaram and aides stole $3 million, guards say

April 02, 1997|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Just before ousted Ecuadorean President Abdala Bucaram fled the capital, palace guards say, he and his aides stuffed burlap bags with $3 million in cash and tossed them into getaway cars.

An additional $26 million disappeared from the central bank in the last week of Bucaram's controversial administration, investigators say.

Two months after the flamboyant president who billed himself as "El Loco" was ousted on charges of mental incompetence, charges are piling up that during his brief term he may have presided over one of the biggest stealing binges in Ecuadorean history.

In just six months in office, Bucaram and his political cronies appear to have made off with at least $80 million, according to charges made by a corruption commission appointed by Bucaram's rival and successor, Fabian Alarcon.

Last month, the country's Supreme Court also charged the former president and four top ministers with corruption, embez- zlement, nepotism and influence-peddling in connection with the misuse of $88 million in a government securities fund.

One deposed minister, palace chief Enrique Villon, was arrested in Peru recently carrying a suitcase stuffed with cash. Another top minister is still missing.

Bucaram remains in self-imposed exile in Panama, to which he also fled in 1985-1990 when charged with corruption as mayor of Guayaquil. He insists that he is still president and says his removal was an illegal coup.

Some members of Congress are urging that Bucaram be extradited and forced to face charges.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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