The Isaias Group
The Isaias Group ("Grupo Isaías") is an Ecuadorian pan regional entrepreneurial conglomerate with an interest in a vast range of sectors. The most important industries were media, telecommunications and banking, and the group owns more than 100 companies. The company is owned by three brothers, Roberto Isaias, William Isaias and Estefano Isaias. For decades, the group owned companies across several industries, including commercial, real estate, industrial, agroindustrial, oil, and media. The three brothers led the group's growth and diversification since the 1980s.
The Isaias Group was founded in the 1930 and since at least 1960 has been investing in the United States, mostly in real estate, business investments, and banking.
In 1985, the group's bank, Filanbanco, was the sixth largest bank in Ecuador. By 1994, it had become the largest. Roberto served as executive president and William served as executive vice president until ownership of the bank was transferred to the Ecuadorian state.
By 2006, the group's six largest companies were: Ecuadorian Television Network (TC Television), Industrial and Commercial Society EICA, Compañía Televisión del Pacífico (Gamavisión), Petromanabí, Producargo Producer of Alcohols, and EICA Emilio Isaias Compañía de Comercio.
Additionally, the group also owned the Republic National Bank, which is the 5th largest bank in Florida. It was founded in 1971 and sold in 1999. The bank's mission was to help the Latin American (and especially Cuban-American) community in the 1970s.
The Isaias Group owned a number of Ecuadorian television and other media companies until the Correa regime began seizing control of them in 2008. Correa wanted to seize the media companies and to justify it, his government used the Filanbanco case as an excuse to demonize the Isaias family in the media and seize the family's companies. Experts have noted that the seizures were illegal.
The media companies included:
- CN3 Cablenoticias is a cable channel with an array of programming including sports, entertainment, and political interviews and debates.
- Maxigraf at one time was one of the largest printing presses in Ecuador. It had four plants: Guayaquil, Quito, Durán and Mapasingue.
- Radio Carrousel was another radio station based in Guayaquil.
- Super K 800 was the most listened to sports radio station in Ecuador.
- TV Cable is a cable television operator. The Isaias Group had a 35.48% ownership interest in the company.
- UMINASA was a newspaper and magazine publishing company. Among its periodicals were newspapers such as La Razón and El Hincha and magazines including La Onda and La Otra.
Political persecution by the Ecuadorian government
During the 1998-1999 economic crisis, over 20 banks in Ecuador became insolvent. The government, however, focused all its blame for the crisis on the Isaias brothers and Filanbanco, which had close political ties to the opposition party.
At the end of the financial crisis, the Ecuadorian government assumed control of Filanbanco, which it eventually closed down in 2001. The bank crisis (“Crisis Bancaria”) started after the government of Ecuador took over and became the sole owner of Filanbanco. None of the Isaias brothers had any control over bank operation after that date.
The Isaias brothers were victims of political persecution instigated by a corrupt government under President Correa. The government began by blaming the Isaiais brothers for money that the bank lost while under government control. Within a few years, the Ecuadorian Attorney General charged the brothers with "bank embezzlement" which was not a crime in Ecuador (although the government quietly added it to the criminal statues after filing the charges). Even the Chief Prosecutor of Ecuador declared that no bank embezzlement had taken place, but the government continued pursuing the charges nevertheless.
Move to the U.S.
Facing unfair allegations, the brothers moved to Miami, Florida, where they continued running other businesses. They own a number of properties and are partners and investors in MIA TV and other media channels in New York, Orlando, and Tampa Bay.
Ecuador even attempted to extradite the two men. In March 2019, Judge Kathleen Williams of the Federal Circuit of Florida denied deportation. The government also tried to sue the two men for damages in a U.S. court, but the court denied the government's claim.
United Nations ruling
In 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that "Constituent Mandate 13", a measure quickly passed by the Ecuadorian legislature to approve seizure of The Isaias Group's assets, violated the right to due process of the Isaiah brothers, protected by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Ecuador is a subscriber.
In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) ruled that former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa violated the civil rights of the Isaias brothers. OHCHR ordered Ecuador to fully restore the seized properties to the Isaias brothers.
The ruling "brings to light the depth of Correa’s corruption and abuse of power." After seizing their businesses, Correa even went so far as to pass an amendment to the country’s constitution openly directed at the Isaias men. The amendment (Mandate No. 13) made it expressly illegal for the brothers to file legal actions. It also said that any judge who even heard such a case would be dismissed. In its ruling, OHCHR ruled that Mandate No. 13 violated Isaias’ rights.
- Philly, Frank Buys (2019-01-22). "A Roberto Isaias Biography". Frank Buys Philly | Building Opportunities. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
- S.A, El Diario, Grupo Ediasa (2008-07-08). "El grupo Isaias, uno de los 42 más grandes del país". El Diario Ecuador. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
- Granada, Alberto Valencia (2010). When Success is a Crime: The Violation of Human Rights to the Isaias Family in Ecuador (2nd ed.). Ecuador. LCCN 2011910169.
- "Caso Isaias". casoisaias.com. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
- Barton, Dominic; Newell, Roberto; Wilson, Gregory (2002). Dangerous Markets: Managing in Financial Crises. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471429739.
- "Senador vinculado con los Isaias". El Telégrafo - Noticias del Ecuador y del mundo (in Spanish). 2014-01-25. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
- "Niegan deportación de los hermanos Roberto y William Isaias, según su abogado". El Universo (in Spanish). 2019-03-08. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
- "Corte de EE.UU. falla a favor del Ecuador en un juicio contra los hermanos Isaias". El Comercio. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
- "Fallo de Comité de ONU da un giro a la incautación de ex AGD". El Comercio. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
- "The United Nations Human Rights Committee Finds Ecuador Government Guilty of Violating Isaias Brothers' Civil Rights". www.prnewswire.com. 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2019-07-22.