Former police officers Freddy Revelo and Danny Herrera, allegedly involved in a corruption network within the Ecuadorian Interior Ministry, handed themselves in to Interpol in Colombia on March 20, after warrants were issued for their arrest and their names were included on the Most Wanted list. Days before, Revelo and Herrera had appeared in a video circulating on the Internet in which they claimed to know, through the statements of other officials, that the money charged for ‘passes’ (permits to change the work location of police officers) goes to the Interior Ministry. According to the former officers, the funds are then used to finance pro-government demonstrations, organized by the ruling party Alianza País. They also claimed that another portion of the money is destined for the Interior Minister himself, José Serrano.
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Upon their arrival in Quito, relatives of the detained officers protested outside the Flagrancy Unit shouting: “We want guarantees!”, and “They were just following orders.” The sister of one of the suspects stated that she has received threats and is fearful for her brother’s life. Meanwhile, the judge and prosecutor for the case, Toainga Wilson, issued protective measures on behalf of the two detainees.
Minister Serrano rejected the accusations and denied any involvement in illegal activities, insisting that an investigation and report were undertaken by the Government in July 2015. According to the four-month inquiry, agents revealed the existence of an organization made up of active members of the police force, who charged between $1,500 and $2,000 for a pass to change an officer’s work location. The Deputy Interior Minister, Diego Fuentes, estimated that, from October 2014 to July 2015, between 3,000 and 5,000 staff movements were made without the approval of the Passes Commission, which he chairs, in exchange for over $6,000,000.
Also on the Most Wanted list is Lieutenant Diego Cifuentes, identified as the network’s ringleader, who still remains at large. Before his involvement in the corruption scandal, Cifuentes was a close confidant to the Interior Minister and even to Rafael Correa. In December 2013, a Ministerial Agreement was published in the Official Register which congratulated Cifuentes and announced his transfer to the Presidency of the Republic. Cifuentes was considered a hero by the Government because, according to reports, he risked his life to protect President Correa during the police uprising of September 30, 2010. In March 2014, Cifuentes was promoted to lieutenant, alongside nine other officers who rose in rank, all linked to the offices of the President, Vice President and Interior Ministry.