Buenos Aires Times

argentina Judge: 'President should watch his words'

Macri summons outgoing, incoming AFIP chiefs over López's prison release

Cristóbal López is accused of withholding between eight and 10 billion pesos in unpaid taxes which prosecutors allege were embezzled or syphoned into other business activities, including alleged payments to the former presidential couple Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.

Tuesday 20 March, 2018
Outgoing AFIP tax office chief Alberto Abad
Outgoing AFIP tax office chief Alberto Abad Foto:NA

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The outgoing AFIP tax office chief Alberto Abad and his successor Leandro Cuccioli were summoned to the Pink House yesterday for a meeting with high-level national government officials.

President Mauricio Macri’s administration is concerned about the future of the tax fraud case against disgraced business tycoon Cristobal López. 

Media reports suggested Tuesday that Macri himself had requested the meeting, which brought together Abad, Cuccioli, vice-Cabinet Chief Mario Quintana, chief presidential adviser José Torello and Treasury Ombudsman Bernardo Saravia Frías.

López and his number two, Fabián de Sousa, were released from preventative detention on Friday. 

The pair are accused of withholding between eight and 10 billion pesos in unpaid taxes which prosecutors allege were embezzled or syphoned into other business activities, including alleged payments to the former presidential couple Néstor and Cristina Kirchner and into the pro-Kirchner media outlets that formed part of López’s Indalo Group.

JUDGE: ‘MACRI SHOULD WATCH HIS WORDS’

Macri — who said López’s release left him feeling “indignant” — confirmed Sunday that the Government and AFIP would appeal the court decision to release López and de Sousa from preventative detention. 

In response, one of the ruling judges said Monday evening that the President should “watch his words”.

“Perhaps he has been misinformed, I doubt he has had time to read the ruling”, Judge Eduardo Farah told Animales Sueltos journalist Romina Manguel. 

“Of course the President has the right to an opinion but he should watch his words”, he added.

Farah denied he had been paid off to favour the former Grupo Indalo bosses.

“I did not get a cent, we (judges) are not all the same. I stick to doing my job the best I can, and in this case they are mixing the words of my ruling”, Farah charged.

CUCCIOLI?

Meanwhile, questions remain about the role incoming tax boss Leandro Cuccioli will play in the ongoing legal saga involving López, de Sousa and the company formerly known as Indalo.

Cuccioli was a board member of the Bermuda-based firm El Tejar alongside Ignacio Rosner who is currently battling the AFIP in the courts over control of Indalo’s assets.

Cuccioli and Rosner met during a number of El Tejar board meetings and shared correspondence about the company between 2012 and 2015.

Rosner is demanding that the tax bureau grant him the opportunity to float Indalo Group, renamed “Grupo Ceibo". Under former boss Abad, the AFIP had tried to ensure that the Judiciary guarantee that the State recover the billions of pesos that the holding owes to the tax bureau, and distrusted Rosner’s claims that he wanted to collaborate in this sense. Abad believed he had a conflict of interest.

Sources from Cuccioli's inner circle told Perfil: “His position, which he has long had, will be to excuse himself if it is determined that there is a conflict of interest regarding anything that must be decided directly or indirectly involving Rosner”.

THE CASE

Prosecutors allege that López and de Sousa paid millions of pesos to the Kirchner family through rent contracts with Los Sauces, the ex presidential family’s real estate firm. 

Los Sauces had no declared employees nor headquarters and only two clients: Grupo Indalo and Lázaro Báez, who has also received preventative detention over corruption charges. 

The argument is that López and de Sousa paid off the Kirchners in exchange for getting former AFIP Ricardo Julio Echegaray to allow Indalo to not pay the fuel tax (worth some $20 billion pesos correcting for inflation, according to Clarín journalist Nicolás Wiñazki’s estimates).

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