Monday, April 4, 2016
Macri cited in offshore accounts leak
A scanned copy of a document showing Mauricio Macri’s alleged participation in the Panama-based Fleg Trading LDT company.
Documents link Lionel Messi, several world leaders to Panama banks in bid to hide money
The biggest leak of documents to journalists in history, which are being investigated by more than 100 news organizations across the world, yesterday exposed the offshore holdings of a number of world leaders — among them, President Mauricio Macri.
According to the so-called “Panama Papers,” which number more than 11 million and were leaked by an anonymous whistleblower, Macri was the “director” and “vice-president” of a company based in the Bahamas managed by Panama-registered law firm Mossack Fonseca, when the president was a businessman and served as the mayor of Buenos Aires City.
The president was accused yesterday by some of failing to declare his ties to the firm as he was meant to. But in a statement to the press, the Pink House said Macri never personally owned shares in the firm, which was part of his family’s business.
The list of Argentines who used Mossack Fonseca to set up offshore entities also includes soccer star Lionel Messi and Lanús Mayor Néstor Grindetti, an ally of the president. Kirchnerite figures including former president Néstor Kirchner’s private secretary, Daniel Muñoz, were also named in the documents.
Governments and media outlets across the world reacted with shock to the leak, publicized by outlets including Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung and local daily La Nación, with global figures such as Vladimir Putin, David Cameron and Michel Platini named in the files.
The leaked documents revealed that Macri joined the board of an offshore company with his father Franco and his brother Mariano. The firm, identified as Fleg Trading Ltd, was registered in the Bahamas since 1998 and operated until 2009.
A scanned copy uploaded by Margarita Torres from the non-profit Center for Public Integrity showed a March 31, 1998 file presenting “the first directors” of Fleg Trading Ltd: “director-president” Francisco (Franco) Macri, “director-vicepresident” Mauricio Macri and “director-secretary” Mariano Macri.
According to the note, directors would serve in their posts “until (their) successors shall have been elected or until (their) resignation or removal.” The La Nación daily said the society ceased to operate in 2009.
While serving as Buenos Aires City mayor, Macri failed to declare his ties to the firm. He did, however, report accounts abroad in 2007 and 2008, including bank accounts in the US and other assets.
Hours later, the government dismissed any claims of wrongdoing.
“The firm’s goal was to be considered an institutional investor or a holding in other nonfinancial companies in Brazil. It had ties to the family business conglomerate, hence Mauricio Macri’s incidental appointment as director, without a stake (in the company),” spokesmen for the PRO party chief told La Nación.
“Macri’s role was circumstantial ... he only occupied a formal role in the firm’s board of directors,” the spokesmen added.
Yesterday afternoon, the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) administration issued a press release giving similar arguments, adding that Macri had no obligation to declare his participation in the company since he held no assets in the firm.
In an explicitly political move, the head of the Anti-Corruption office (OA) Laura Alonso quoted a part of the La Nación story to jump to conclusions and quickly offer her own take on the issue.
“Here’s what you read but are failing to quote: to open a company in a tax haven is not a crime in itself, gentlemen,” Alonso wrote on Twitter.
While the president’s name was just one of many in ICIJ’s investigation, Latin American reporters and part of the European press stressed Macri’s presence on par with that of other key heads of state such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin or the UK’s David Cameron, sometimes contrasting with local coverage which focused on Messi and Muñoz.
From Greater BA
to Santa Cruz
The year-long investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 100 other news organizations also revealed that Néstor Grindetti, Macri’s former Finance minister during his tenure as BA City mayor, also appeared in the registers of Mossack Fonseca.
Grindetti, now mayor of the Greater Buenos Aires district of Lanús, ran a registered firm in Panama and a bank account in Switzerland. Offshore operations were performed between July, 2010 and July, 2013.
According to a public document from July 2, 2010, the Mossack Fonseca law firm gave Grindetti special powers to run a company known as Mercier International. Two weeks later, he was granted additional special powers to open and run an account at the Switzerland-based bank Clariden Leu AG.
Sources close to Grindetti told La Nación the Lanús mayor did receive special powers from Mercier International to carry out financial and real estate investments that never materialized but added the PRO leader “did not recall” having received a second set of permissions to run the Swiss bank account.
Founded by German-born Jüergen Mossack, the firm has offices across the globe and is among the world’s biggest creators of shell companies.
A number of politicians and businessmen linked to the Kirchnerite governments were also tied to offshore companies.
Daniel Muñoz, the private secretary of former late president Néstor Kirchner, was involved with an offshore company registered on the Virgin Islands, the documents revealed.
Muñoz and his wife, Carolina Pochetti, were also tied to Gold Black Limited, a firm from the British Virgin Islands through which they intended to buy a property in the US.
On January, 2015 — long after Kirchner’s death in 2010 — Muñoz and Pochetti became shareholders in Gold Black Limited. But Mar del Plata businessman Sergio Todisco, a friend of Muñoz and Pochetti, occupied directive positions in the company. His role was that of “a mere administrator,” Todisco told La Nación.
"The Kirchner family has no account, society or property of any kind abroad. It is President Mauricio Macri who was mentioned in today's revelations with central protagonism,” former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said in a statement.
The findings are just some of the publicized results of ICIJ’s extensive investigation into the offshore financial dealings of the rich and famous, based on a vast trove of documents provided by an anonymous source. The leaked data covers nearly 40 years, from 1977 through the end of 2015.
The Herald wasn’t immediately able to verify the allegations made in the articles that were published by the more than 100 news organizations involved in the investigation.
Herald staff with DyN, Télam, online media