The new head of the AFIP tax bureau Leandro Cuccioli has shares in two investment funds in the Cayman Islands and managed a company based in another tax haven, Bermudas, according to documents from the Paradise Papers leak.
The public servant, who recently worked in the Cabinet Chief’s Office and in the Finance Ministry, lodged his 2016 affidavits with the Anti-Corruption Office (OA). These show that the majority of his assets are offshore, and that part of his investments (AR $ 1,353,629) are in the form of common investment funds in the United States.
These investment funds, denominated CIPEF V and CIPEF VI, are managed by a finance firm, The Capital Group, of which Cuccioli was a board member until 2015. However, the documents dug up by the Argentine Paradise Papers team show that these investment funds, created in 2007 and 2011 to operate in emerging markets, are based in the Cayman Islands, not the United States.
Aside from his personal investments, Cuccioli has direct links to other secretive jurisdictions. As a member of The Capital Group he sat on the board of El Tejar, one of the biggest agricultural projects in Argentina and the Souther Cone, and which has its headquarters in Bermudas, another tax haven. El Tejar also connected him with Ignacio Rosner, the financier who took control of the defunct Indalo Group which is currently in a court battle with the AFIP over control of Indalo, formerly belonging to the now jailed Cristóbal López, which owes more than AR $10 billion to the tax bureau.
The Paradise Papers documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared among the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which includes Perfil, La Nación and América.
As a board member of this company registered in Bermudas, Cuccioli’s e-mail address was carbon-copied in 449 e-mails. There are also 17 documents that describe the structure of El Tejar, composed of offshore companies of different jurisdictions and investment groups, and that recognise him as a B-class shareholder. The last document with his name is dated March 2015.
The documents also show how El Tejar, of which Cuccioli was a board member, operated through Bermuda-based HSCB bank accounts. El Tejar is one of the 10 biggest grain producers in the country but is mostly operated and capitalised by companies based in tax havens.
The new AFIP boss formed part of this structure, designed to minimise tax payments in Latin America and reduce the risks of potential legal action against El Tejar in countries where it buys and operates land.
Ignacio Rosner was also a board member of El Tejar alongside Cuccioli. The financier took his position in 2011 representing one of the largest shareholders of El Tejar, Altima Partners LLP, based in London, and which has various subsidiaries in the Cayman Island.
Cuccioli and Rosner met during a number of El Tejar board meetings and shared correspondence about the company between 2012 and 2015.
As the new head of the AFIP, Cuccioli must confront Rosner in the courts. Rosner is demanding that the tax bureau grant him the opportunity to float Indalo Group, renamed “Grupo Ceibo". Under former boss Alberto Abad, the AFIP had tried to ensure that the Judiciary guarantee the State recovered the billions of pesos that the holding owes to the tax bureau, and distrusted Rosner’s claims to want to collaborate in this sense. Abad believed he had a conflict of interest.
Cuccioli lived in London for most of the last 10 years before returning to Buenos Aires, according to his LinkedIn profile. He came back to Argentina in 2016 as an adviser in the Cabinet Chief’s Office. He was the coordinator of Public Policy in areas of finance, defence, telecommunications, science and technology. Then in the Finance Ministry, Cuccioli was officially appointed as Secretary of Financial Services on March 6, 2017 by the minister Luis Caputo.
Sources close to Cuccioli responded to the Paradise Papers team in Argentina about his Cayman Island investment funds: “The CIPEF funds are based in the Cayman Island and they invest from there, but they are controlled by The Capital Group, based in Los Angeles. The Capital Group is the mother company, in the United States, and it is the one that manages those funds, which is why its accountant chose that address for its investments”.
On the relationship between Cuccioli and Rosner, they added: “Rosner represented Altima (which owned 60 percent of El Tejar) and Cuccioli represented The Capital Group through the CIPEF funds, which owned 12 percent of El Tejar. It was during the 2012-2013 period that Cuccioli was first an observer and later in 2014 a board member of El Tejar”.
Regarding the idea of the conflict of interest for Cuccioli, give he sat on the same board as a businessman with an ongoing legal battle against the AFIP, sources from Cuccioli's inner circle said: “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”.
There is another businessman who had been under scrutiny by Abad’s AFIP who had investments in the same firm of which Cuccioli was a board member. Marcos Galperin, owner of Mercado Libre, invested in El Tejar through an offshore firm based in the British Virgin Islands, as Paraside Paper documents revealed. In fact, one of Galperin’s associates in that offshore firm, Patricio Gómez Sabaini, appears as a board member of El Tejar in 2007.