Judge in Ecuador orders judges, attorneys and officials held in jail as part of corruption probe

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A judge in Ecuador on Sunday ordered that more than a dozen suspects including judges, attorneys and government officials be held in jail while authorities investigate judicial rulings that allegedly favored criminals.

The suspects were arrested Saturday following operations launched across Ecuador, with 14 of them ordered held. House arrest was ordered for two elderly suspects and a ban on leaving the country was issued for a pregnant woman.

The judge also ordered that the suspects’ bank accounts be frozen.

The suspects join 14 other defendants already linked to a case dubbed “Plague” as prosecutors investigate what they say is an illegal network that sold favorable sentences, prison releases and other favors to members of organized crime groups.

During a hearing that began Saturday afternoon and lasted until Sunday morning, the prosecution alleged that in exchange for $70,000, one judge granted freedom to a collaborator of Fabricio Colón Pico, leader of Los Lobos, considered one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the Andean country. It has been linked to Mexican cartels and was sanctioned by the U.S. government in early June.

Prosecutors accused other judges of operating in similar ways for payments ranging between $30,000 and $60,000.

Ecuador is experiencing a wave of violence that authorities blame on organized crime groups linked to drug trafficking.

Since January, the government declared that Ecuador is experiencing an internal armed conflict and named 22 organizations it has classified as terrorists, including Los Lobos, as military objectives.