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Bucaram dismisses charges against former finance minister

March 12, 1997

PANAMA CITY (AP) _ Deposed Ecuadoran President Abdala Bucaram rejected claims that his former finance minister tried to enter Peru with more than $3.4 million in stolen government funds.

Bucaram, who was stripped of the presidency Feb. 6 by Ecuador’s Congress, also said Monday he plans to file charges against Ecuador’s interim president, Fabian Alarcon, for what he said was an illegal taking of power.

The flamboyant ex-president _ whose antics and silly behavior first captivated the country and later led to his downfall _ said his lawyers would present his case to Ecuador’s Supreme Court of Justice on Wednesday.

According to Ecuadoran authorities, former Finance Minister Enrique Villon was arrested Friday by Peruvian officials while carrying a suitcase with $3.4 million in cash.

But a Peruvian prosecutor and police officer say the actual amount was significantly less than that.

``It is a campaign to justify the coup d’etat against me,″ Bucaram said Monday of the charges against Villon.

Bucaram, who is living in exile in Panama with his family, claimed it is impossible to carry $3.4 million in a single suitcase.

Ecuador’s new government accuses the former president and his top aides of squandering or stealing up to $80 million of government money during his six months in power.

Congress ousted Bucaram for ``mental incapacity,″ accusing him of corruption, nepotism and embarrassing public behavior. Bucaram says that according to the constitution, if he is deemed mentally unfit, he cannot be subject tried by the Ecuadoran Congress for corruption.

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