Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso is connected to 49 companies in offshore tax havens, Pagina 12 reports, presenting challenges to his campaign ahead of the April 2 runoff election.
The companies, based in Panama, the Cayman Islands and Delaware, have diverse names that hide Lasso's role.
Pagina 12 reports that between 1999 and 2000, around the same time former Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad dollarized the country's economy and Lasso served as minister of finance, Lasso's fortune went up from US$1 million to US$31 million dollars.
The right-wing banker candidate is believed to have boosted his fortune by speculating on government bonds ahead of dollarization, which left millions of Ecuadoreans in poverty.
"The financier tried in recent years to tidy up his businesses in order to enter the political arena," the investigative report says. "However, the magnitude of the offshore companies and their profits could implicate him in tax evasion."
Last month, Ecuador became the first country in the world to pass a plebiscite to ban public officials from having assets or capital in tax havens. All public servants and elected officials now have one year to bring any offshore investments back to the country or they will be removed from office for violating the policy, aimed at combating tax havens and increasing the accountability of public officials.
Now that Lasso has been connected to offshore tax havens, his presidential candidacy may be at risk.
Dubbed the "Ecuadorean Trump," Lasso wants to cut taxes on the rich, downsize government institutions, privatize school systems and allow increased foreign investment if elected. Overall, he wants to roll back advances made by Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and the democratic socialist Citizens' Revolution.
Lasso's formal entry into politics began in 1998, when he was appointed as the governor of Guayas province by Mahuad. During that year's election campaign, Lasso had been one of Mahuad's biggest donors.
In 1999, Mahuad appointed Lasso as Ecuador's minister of finance and energy. In that role, Lasso oversaw a significant increase in the sales tax on basic goods which primarily affected poor and middle-class Ecuadoreans.
He then resigned as finance minister just months before Mahuad fled the country after being ousted by an Indigenous-led uprising in the wake of the massive banking and dollarization scandal.
Despite overseeing Ecuador's economy in the lead-up to the country's worst-ever economic crisis, Lasso himself was never charged in connection to the banking scandal. It left the country's economy crippled and led to the forced migration of almost three million Ecuadoreans.