Ecuadorian president, linked to US real estate, named in Pandora Papers

Massive records trove shows Guillermo Lasso’s ties to offshore trusts

Ecuadorian president, linked to US real estate, named in Pandora Papers
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso linked to US real estate, named in Pandora Papers (Getty)

Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso – who has been linked to roughly 130 South Florida properties – is among the heads of state named in the Pandora Papers.

The trove of records reveals Lasso is linked to two trusts set up in South Dakota, but do not touch on the president’s alleged links to South Florida real estate.

The Real Deal in July reported on Lasso’s alleged connections to properties, mostly condominium units and townhouses, in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. TRD confirmed the data provided by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. Records showed that limited liability companies once managed by one of Lasso’s sons and two directors at a Panamanian bank, with links to Lasso, amassed the real estate since 2009 for roughly $33 million.

The Pandora Papers revelations related to Lasso are of a different nature. He is tied to two trusts, Bretten Trust and Liberty US Trust, created in 2017 in South Dakota, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which coordinated the Pandora investigation. Companies held by Panamanian private interest foundations, named Bernini and Barberini, were transferred to the Bretten and Liberty trusts, with Lasso authorizing the conveyance. Rules for the Panamanian foundations dictate that monthly distributions are to be made to Lasso’s family after he dies, ICIJ reported. Specifically, his wife is to receive $20,000; his children $2,000; and his brother $1,500.

In response to the investigation, Lasso told ICIJ that he does not have “any relation regarding property, control, benefit or interest of any type” with the two trusts.

“Accordingly, I have at all times complied with the Ecuadorian law that forbids candidates and public servants from holding offshore companies, exactly as I have declared in my filings,” Lasso added in his statement to ICIJ.

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Lasso, who stepped in as Ecuador’s 47th president in May, had two previous failed presidential bids, one in 2013 and another in 2017. He is a former banker, having headed Banco Guayaquil for almost 20 years since 1994, and told ICIJ that the bank is the source of his income.

He created GLM Management Trust in Ecuador in 2011 to hold his assets, which include a 40 percent share of Corporation MultiBG. In turn, Corporation MultiBG is the majority owner of Banco Guayaquil, according to ICIJ. Two of Lasso’s siblings are the other main MultiBG shareholders.

GLM Management Trust holds Lasso’s investment in Banco Guayaquil and has “no current relation” to any foreign company, the president told ICIJ. The GLM trustee is an Ecuadorian management company.

The Pandora Papers also showed links between Lasso and another eight offshore companies and private interests foundations, but all have been dissolved. Lasso also told ICIJ that “all past use of any international entity” was legitimate.

The Pandora Papers consists of 11.9 million confidential records, which makes it bigger than its Panama Papers predecessor from five years ago. It revealed the offshore asset hideaways of 300 politicians and public officials from more than 90 countries.

[ICIJ] – Lidia Dinkova