Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Judge demands info from tax havens on Macri’s offshore firms
President Mauricio Macri speaks during a rally in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Lomas de Zamora yesterday, as BA Governor María Eugenia Vidal and BA City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta look on.
Casanello requests information from tax havens to probe president’s ties to offshore firms
A potential new chapter in the legal fallout of the “Panama Papers” scandal was opened yesterday after Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello sent legal requests to judicial authorities in the Bahamas and Panama, asking for their cooperation with an investigation into President Mauricio Macri’s ties to offshore companies.
The move draws the spotlight back onto the president and his alleged links to tax havens.
According to judicial sources, Casanello is asking officials in Nassau and Panama City for help in order to find out if Macri was registered as a shareholder in the Bahamas-based Fleg Trading Ltd company and in the Kagemusha firm based in Panama.
The sources said the magistrate had also requested information over what role the president had played in the creation of the two companies.
Casanello’s orders — which in turn follow on from prosecutor Federico Delgado’s legal writ submitted on Sunday — are an attempt to prove the relation between the two firms, their legal structure and their commercial and financial transaction history. After the information is provided, the magistrate will determine whether there is a link between the two cases.
Those requests, however, must first pass through the Foreign Ministry headed by Susana Malcorra, where they will be certified and translated.
A legal order was also submitted to the Financial Information Unit (UIF) to verify the existence of the offshore companies, and whether Fleg Trading Ltd and Kagemusha SA continue to operate.
“The goal is to establish whether Mauricio Macri maliciously omitted information from his affidavit and to establish if his association with the company violated a criminal code — and in this case, if Macri was involved with the formation of the companies,” the judge said, according to the Infobae news portal.
Casanello also requested commercial information of both offshore companies, as well as the names of those people that have bank accounts linked to the companies be provided.
The “Panama Papers” leak, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, revealed that Macri was registered as shareholder in the Fleg Trading Ltd offshore company along with his brother, Mariano, and his father, Franco — who was registered as the company’s president.
Despite being elected mayor of Buenos Aires City in 2007, Macri never declared his links to the company in the sworn affidavits he had to submit because of his position as a public official.
In 2009, two years after he was elected, Macri allegedly left the company.
When his ties to offshore companies were revealed last month, the president said that the reason he never had included the company in his affidavits was because he never received dividends, and therefore he wasn’t obliged to reveal his involvement.
Government officials, for their part, argue that since the company was owned by Macri’s father — who had declared it in his previous tax declarations — and because Macri never had any direct participation with the company’s offshore assets nor received funds — he therefore didn’t have to declare it.
Macri was then accusd of deliberately omitting information about his assets in affidavits he signed during his previous role as mayor. The prosecutor leading the case against Macri believes that the president may have committed a crime.
“In our first step, we need to determine if Mr. Mauricio Macri maliciously omitted information from his sworn affidavit,” Delgado wrote in the legal request submitted to Casanello.
“But the second step is much more complicated,” Delgado added, explaining this was because they would have to determine if Macri broke any other laws by involving himself with the offshore companies.
“The case shouldn’t be limited to only investigating if the information was omitted maliciously, when Macri acted with intent and willingly,” the prosecutor concluded.
Other implicated officials
Last month, it was revealed that Macri is not the only PRO party leader to be involved with offshore trading companies. Lanús Mayor and former BA City Finance minister Néstor Grindetti also appears in the registers of the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm.
According to documents released by the ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca gave Grindetti special powers to run a company known as Mercier International, allowing him to hide his involvement in the offshore firm. The Lanús leader also opened an account at the Switzerland-based bank Clariden Leu AG, an account that is connected to Credit Suisse.
Grindetti was in charge of issuing Tango 8 City bonds in 2010, which Credit Suisse received commission for facilitating.
Casanello has also received a request to open a probe against Grindetti for “malicious omission of data” by the ex-head of the Procelac anti-money-laundering unit Carlos Gonella.
Other officials allegedly involved in offshore companies are BA City Culture Minister Darío Lopérfido, Vicente López Mayor Jorge Macri, Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) Director Gustavo Arribas and Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj. Lóperfido is registered in the Panama Public Registry as the vice-president of Supernova Productions Inc, a company that invests in entertainment productions, while the Vicente López mayor is the secretary of Latium Investments, an offshore company created in Panama in 2005, which continues to be active. The president of that firm is 77-year-old architect Carlos Libedinksy, who also is a close associate of Macri.
Avruj has also been touched by the scandal. According to the Página/12 newspaper, the human rights secretary is part of the board of directors of an alleged offshore company in Panáma called Kalushy. While his wife, Elisa Virginia Alfie, is registered as the company’s treasurer.
Justice Minister Germán Garavano said that he had asked Avruj for further clarifications after his links to the offshore company were revealed.
“It’s important to clarify that Avruj lived in Panama and Venezuela, and worked in Panama,” said Garavano at the time.
Yet not all the companies that PRO officials are linked to are based in the Caribbean. The AFI director is linked to the La Veneziana Corp., which is registered in the US State Department’s registries in New York. The company, which was created in 2009, has its headquarters in the Bronx.
Herald with online media