Ecuadorean officials detained a former energy minister on Monday as part of an investigation into alleged bribes tied to state oil corporation Petroecuador, according to the attorney general’s office.
An inquiry against Xavier Vera, Ecuador’s former mines and energy minister, was launched last October in response to multiple corruption charges, including that he organized jobs at Petroecuador in exchange for bribes.
“The attorney general’s office, with the support from (Ecuadorean police) executed an arrest warrant against Xavier V., within an investigation for alleged bribery,” the attorney general’s office wrote in a message via Twitter, referring to Vera.
Vera, who served for six months before resigning last October, has denied the accusations, calling them slanderous and an effort to discredit the government of President Guillermo Lasso.
He resigned hours after prosecutors raided his properties in capital Quito and coastal city Guayaquil, as well as his office and a Quito hotel where another person linked to the case had been staying.
In the tweet, the prosecutor’s office said it had arrested Vera in order to ensure he appear at his arraignment hearing, without giving further details.
“The former minister has left the country more than once since these processes began. He isn’t running away from the investigation, he isn’t running away from the process,” Vera’s lawyer, Carlos Sanchez, told local television channel Ecuavisa.
Vera’s detention comes as opposition lawmakers push for impeachment proceedings against Lasso for alleged embezzlement in connection with a contract at state-owned oil transportation company Flopec, which could lead to his removal from office.
Lasso denies the accusation and says his administration made changes to the contract, which was signed years before he took office, to benefit the state.