Monday, January 16, 2012

Coopera, the Organic Coop Market and credit union in Cuenca, Ecuador has been closed by the government pending investigation of $31 million suspected of being laundered through Venezuela

Coopera has been operating for 9 years and has seemed to be growing lately with the addition of new stores, restaurants and clinics. But to everyone's surprised the government closed them down and arrested 8 employee's suspected of money laundering! It seems they were sending millions of dollars to Banks in Panama, USA &Venezuela, a total amount of around 36 million! 

  Depositors with $10,000 or less got all their money back from various local Banks in July. The smallest depositors were paid back first, Then depositors with $50,000 or more received $35,000. Other depositors had to wait for assets to be sold before they could receive part of their deposits back. Unfortunately these few with millions in deposits did not receive anything.

All the clinics were closed and the store were sold off. The government is trying to recover the millions in foreign banks so they can pay back other depositors. Good luck with that! Meanwhile the managers involved in the thief are serving 8 year prison sentences! 

The depositors funds are not insured as with National Banks. but from what I understand all depositors will eventually be paid back without interest of course.

Between 100-200 expats have large amounts of money deposited with Coopera, some ranging from 1 million to 4.5 million dollars and many have depended on the interest for their livelihood.

One good thing is their markets operating other different names now are still open offering great fresh vegetables and fruits!

I will miss my $2 Dr. visits and the 10.5% interest but there is still JEP that pays 9.25% and the banks do pay 6% - 8%! Still much better than in the USA!

I discovered Coopera on-line through a couple of Expat Blogs and I was looking forward to shopping there! Coopera is an Organic fruit and vegetable store which also carries fresh meats and seafood. Being the growing season here is all year around there is always a supply of great fresh fruits and vegetables.
As a member of Coopera you receive discounts off your purchases. We headed up-stairs to the Credit Union office and opened a Savings account. It takes just $20 to open the account and it pays 3% interest!
I questioned them more about the account and I discovered I could write them a US check to deposit into my savings account with no fees and I would receive an ATM card I could use at any ATM in Ecuador for a 50c charge. If you use an ATM at one of the Banks to withdraw funds from your US Bank account you can pay up to a $5 fee and the limit is sometimes $300 per day! Plus your US Bank will charge you another $5 + 1-3% per transaction fee. So it could take several days and lots of fee's to get a large amount of cash that way.
 I wrote a US check and deposited it into my new savings account and it took 15 business days to clear my Bank just as they said it would.
Also while I was there I signed up for their Health Insurance which is $2.65 a month. Coopera has their own Medical / Dental clinic and Pharmacy. With their Insurance a Doctor's visit is just $2 and any medications the Doctor prescribes is 80% off! This is great, being the normal cost to see a Doctor here is $30 and medication such as my Ventolin inhalers here are about $9 each, but now I get 80% off that price. And if you need to go to the Hospital or if the Doctor referrers you to a specialist Coopera will refund  these charges up to $480 per year. Dental includes two free cleanings a year and fillings are around $5 each!
Well I could not pass this deal up! Ecuador does have free Medical Clinics and Hospitals that anyone can use. But they also have private clinics and Hospitals that charge very reasonable fees!
I have been told a face lift here is around $3500!

Coopera also has their own taxi's that don't over charge! It is a short walk from my Condo to Coopera along the river and a cheap taxi ride home with the goods!

          Lots of passion fruits and they make fresh juices daily!

                        Fresh organic eggs 2 dozen for $1.68!

The grapefruits here are Huge and the oranges are sweet and juicy!

Juicy sweet tomatoes anyone! Can't find local tomato juice here which I like to use in my soup so guess I can make it with fresh tomatoes. I noticed the other day some plastic jugs of tomato paste, made by Coopera with fresh tomatoes, garlic, salt and basil. So I picked up a jug and I made the best Pasta sauce! I think I will water it down for soup.

                                And check out the produce!

    I have never seen such big chickens, a favorite of Ecuadorians!

And fresh pork loins $11 for 2 1/2 pounds - hamburger w/ no fat $2.30 a pound - bacon - cheese - even bologna! 

                         Fresh seafood daily - even live crabs!

                        And giant prawns $11 for 2 1/2 pounds!

Coopera was good while it lasted! The Government just closed them down for fraudulent accounts of 31 million. We will get our money back next month! To bad I really liked the interest. National Banks pay 6-8%

Also I had been reading on-line about Coopera's 30-day 10.5% CD! And how anyone can invest even without being a resident.
I asked my Attorney about this and he suggested a Bank that pays 7.5% on 12-month CD's. Being skeptical I talked to an American guy at my Attorneys office that told me he had a CD with a Bank several years ago and the Bank went under but because it was Government Insured he did get his money back. 
Coopera has been in business since 2003 and is a credit union owned by the depositors. I asked if their CD's were Government Insured I was told no! There is a 2% tax on interest earned if you take it monthly, but if you leave it for one year + 2 days - no tax!
So being I am getting only .39% in B of A I put some money into a CD @ 10.5%. They will pay up to 12% depending on the amount of the CD.
 At least the interest might pay for my furniture after a couple of years! Ha!

Until next time - Bet I made you hungry!  


  1. Below is 1. a link to a list of registered banks and credit unions in Ecuador, and 2. a link to a list of all banks and credit unions covered by Ecuador's FDIC type insurance.

  2. Excellent article Gary.

  3. Thanks Gary great information. I'm so interested in every bit of information I can get in preparation for my move in the next year or so.
    Thanks Linda

  4. OK, a couple of questions..... Are you still happy with that bank account with the 10% interest rate and have you seen or met anyone who has gotten a face lift. I picture myself getting a little work done and coming out looking a little Ecuadorian... not that it would be a bad thing... but seriously, I am wondering if the cosmetic surgery is done well in Ecuador. Surgery junkets are a big business....

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