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Friday February 25, 6:38 pm Eastern Time

Ecuador president may seek extradition of bankers

PARCAYACU, Ecuador, Feb 25 (Reuters) - President Gustavo Noboa said Friday he may seek the extradition of bankers under investigation in connection with several banks that failed because of irregular loan practices that contributed to last year's liquidity crisis.

Fifteen of Ecuador's 35 banks are now under state control following 1998's liquidity crisis where insufficient funds were kept in accounts to back money loaned. Ecuador's banks registered total net losses of $154.4 million in 1999 after a profit of $20 million a year before.

Some bankers have fled to the United States, Europe and Central America, according to police sources.

Noboa warned his government may ask authorities in those governments to revoke the bankers' visas to force them to leave.

``The prevailing of justice and imposition of corresponding punishment would permit a return of confidence in a country defrauded of its aspirations,'' Noboa said during a military ceremony near Quito.

Noboa went on to criticize Ecuador's justice system for being slow to try bankers responsible for the failure of various financial institutions.

``I cannot silence myself when I see how slow the judicial proceedings are,'' Noboa said.

``I require members of the judiciary as I do those who control the banks to urgently impose means to sanction the authors of such grave acts,'' he said.

To date only one banker in Ecuador is serving a jail sentence while others are hiding in the country or abroad.



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