A federal commercial court is set to take control of disgraced businessman Cristobal López’s media empire Grupo Indalo, following the formal bankruptcy in May of his Oil Combustibles firm, the majority shareholder in Indalo.
Argentina’s AFIP tax bureau is fighting to recover around US$500 million in overdue taxes stemming from what prosecutors alleged were favourable — and illegal — repayment options granted to Oil Combustibles by the former AFIP administration.
The court will now take charge of the firm in order to audit its assets for future sale.
Earlier this year, the AFIP had agreed with the courts to a mechanism that would allow a winning bidder to repay Oil Combustibles’s debts in 12 instalments. But they failed to seal a deal with Trafigura S.A. (TASA), an oil company based in the Netherlands, leading to the firm’s formal bankruptcy.
Commercial Court Judge Javier Constentino has ordered the continuity of the company’s business activities in order to protect jobs.
Indalo owns and operates the high-rating news channel C5N; radio stations 10 and FM Pop; newspaper Ámbito Financiero; and the websites ámbito.com, minuto1.com and diarioregistrado.com.
Across its media platforms, the firm’s editorial line is considered favourable to former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her political movement, known locally as Kirchnerismo.
Oil Combustibles was owned by López and Fabian de Sousa, business tycoons with close ties to the former Kirchner administrations.
López was jailed in December on a preventative detention order, but released in March. An appeal reversed his release and he and de Sousa were returned to jail. The judge who signed his initial release, Jorge Ballestero, quit the federal court circuit in May amid controversy.
Prosecutors have alleged that López benefited from the leniency granted to him by the the previous AFIP administration to fund other business ventures including C5N.
The company had been intervened since February.