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A review of corporate and real estate records in Florida shows the Lasso-linked shell companies’ holdings have increased since 2017, raising questions over the legality of Lasso’s candidacy.
Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso had links with shell companies in the United States for more than $30 million in 2017, which after the approval of a legal reform were covered up with "additional veils of anonymity," the CEPR research center denounced Thursday.
This revelation comes just over a week before the ballot in Ecuador between Lasso - a right-wing banker - and leftist candidate Andres Arauz, a protegé of former President Rafael Correa.
In the last 2017 presidential election, the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) denounced the existence of shell companies in Florida linked to Lasso that had properties in Miami valued at more than $30 million.
Ecuador approved in 2017 a reform called the Ethical Pact to prevent public officials or candidates for elected office from having companies or accounts in tax havens.
According to Ecuadorean law, Florida is included in the list of preferential tax regimes in the case that the investments are under the form of Limited Liability Companies (LLC for its acronym in English).
"Although additional veils of anonymity have been introduced to hide ownership, a review of Florida's corporate and real estate records show that front companies linked to Lasso have increased since 2017," CEPR stated.
The center indicated that in 2020, most of the shell companies noted underwent countless changes, including deactivations, resignations, name changes, mergers and dissolutions.
"Many companies changed their names within a week of dissolution. All but four of the companies associated with Lasso have now merged into new entities. In total we identified 23 active companies registered in Florida," CEPR noted.
According to CEPR researcher Jake Johnston "shell companies are a significant factor in explaining how the rich, the powerful and the corrupt can hide their money to avoid paying taxes."
Johnston indicated to AFP that "Lasso should clearly explain what connection he has with these or any other front companies outside of Ecuador."
"Voters in any country should know the business, local or foreign interests of candidates for high office and whether they use corporate anonymity or accounting tricks to avoid contributing a fair share to the country they seek to govern," he concluded.