Ecuador to probe legality of debt under ex-president Correa

QUITO, (Reuters) – Ecuador’s comptroller’s office on Monday announced it will open an audit of debt contracted in the last five years of the government of former President Rafael Correa to determine the legality of the operations and the use of the funds.

The move follows a report by the comptroller’s office revealing that some documentation relating to debt operations had been declared secret and that official reports on public debt had excluded some of the operations.

President Lenin Moreno, a former Correa protege, since his election last year been has criticized the ex-president’s handling of the economy and is seeking to unwind some Correa-era reforms. Correa says such efforts constitute a “coup” by Moreno.

A team of economists, lawyers and businessmen will analyze debt operations carried out between January 2012 and May 2017 and will present recommendations in April.

Comptroller Pablo Celi said Correa and former Finance Ministry officials had been notified about investigation.

Shortly after taking office last May, Moreno said that total public debt was $42 billion dollars, plus additional liabilities including some associated with payments to oil services companies.

I have just learned of a supposed preliminary report on the audit of the debt and a commission that includes several haters of the (Citizen’s Revolu-tion),” Correa said via Twitter, referring to his political movement.

During a later speech in the city of Guayaquil he described the probe as “persecution.”

The former president is leading a campaign for the “No” vote in a Feb. 4 referendum on constitutional reforms include a measure to prohibit indefinite re-election, a measure Correa created that allowed him to run for a second term.

Correa himself in 2008 commissioned a team of experts to study the country’s prior debt operations. The experts concluded that several debt operations were “illegitimate,” leading his government to declare a default.

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