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ARGENTINA | 05-10-2021 09:25

Argentina ranks third for offshore bank accounts in 'Pandora Papers' leak

New leak of nearly 12 million documents from financial services firms shows how elite use tax havens to stash assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Number of Argentines appear, including Gianfranco and Mariano Macri, Jaime Durán Barba, Daniel Muñoz, Ángel Di María, Javier Mascherano, Mauricio Pochettino and Zulemita Menem.

Argentina ranks third worldwide for having the most people concealing assets offshore for tax evasion and other purposes in the so-called 'Pandora Papers' leak.

The data probed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in a new investigation – involving some 600 journalists from dozens of media, including The Washington Post, The Guardian and several local outlets – has thrown up some notable names.

The information comes from a leak of some 11.9 million documents of 14 financial services companies worldwide. Those mentioned include both the brothers of Argentina's former president Mauricio Macri, Gianfranco and Mariano Macri, in two companies which were among the beneficiaries of the 2016 tax whitewash during Macri’s Cambiemos government, as well as that government’s spin doctor, Jaime Durán Barba from Ecuador.

The ICIJ, which worked locally with elDiarioAR, Infobae and La Nación, detected links between offshore assets mostly located in the British Virgin Islands and 336 top executives and politicians from 90 countries around the world who created around 1,000 companies.

With 2,521 final beneficiaries, Argentina ranks only behind Russia (4,437) and the United Kingdom (3,506). According to the investigation, most of these Argentines opted to create dummy companies in the British Virgin Islands (1,981) with the rest distributed between Belize, Panama and the United States, as well as other minor destinations.

Analysing the information by the number of companies involved, Argentina also ranks high in the Pandora Papers as the fifth country with the most firms controlled from here, with at least 1,448 companies. That tally is only topped by the United Kingdom (3,936), Russia (3,694), Hong Kong (2,104) and China (1,892), La Nación reported.

Apart from the Macri brothers, the Pandora Papers further point a figure at Daniel Muñoz, the late private secretary of the former president Néstor Kirchner, who also figured in the Panama Papers. Famous names from the world of football also appear, including Paris Saint Germain and national team footballer Ángel Di María and his club’s current coach, Mauricio Pochettino.

Also linked to offshore accounts are former Albiceleste captain Javier Mascherano and Humberto Grondona, son of the late Argentine Football Association (AFA) president, Julio Humberto Grondona.

Other names are financier Ernesto Clarens, an important whistleblower in the “cuadernos” corruption case against Kirchnerite officials, Zulemita Menem, daughter of late ex-president Carlos Menem, and vaccine tycoons Hugo Sigman (Insud) and Marcelo Figueiras (Laboratorios Richmond), all on a list including over 130 multimillionaires, 35 serving and former government leaders, monarchs, judges, ministers, mayors and spies worldwide with Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso, Colombian singer Shakira and German model Claudia Schiffer among those featuring prominently.


Latin America

Apart from Lasso, who deposited funds in two trusts registered in South Dakota, other Latin American presidents mentioned include Chile’s Sebastián Piñera, revealing the purchase and sale of Minera Dominga via an offshore account in the British Virgin Islands between the president and his “childhood friend,” the businessman Carlos Alberto Délano.

Via a communiqué, the Presidency of Chile informed: "The president never participated in nor had any information regarding the sale of Minera Dominga, an operation which took place in 2010, when he no longer participated in the administration of those companies."

Also mentioned in the documents were former Colombian presidents César Gaviria Trujillo (1990-1994) and Andrés Pastrana Arango (1998-2002), both turning to offshore services after leaving office but still maintaining a notable political influence in their country.

Gaviria set up a society in Panama in 2010 along with one of his brothers and other partners whereby he came to control a Colombian firm related to the energy sector. Pstrana managed to keep his Panamanian society anonymous, administering his family assets from there.

The Pandora Papers reveal that Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes created Dreadnoughts International Group in 2014 in the British Virgin Islands. The official figures as a shareholder of that shell company, which can remain registered for years in that tax haven without any activity until given a use by somebody.

The documents show President Jair Bolsonaro’s minister to have invested US$8 million that year in the company, registered in his name and those of his wife and daughter.


Entertainment and sports celebrities

At least three of the offshore companies belonging to Colombian singer Shakira were created for her by a firm called OMC Group, according to the ICIJ investigation. On Monday, her lawyer affirmed that her accounts overseas are declared with due accountability, insisting that Shakira never uses these accounts to evade taxes.

The German model and actress Claudia Schiffer was also mentioned for having assets abroad but her representatives affirm that she duly pays her taxes in the United Kingdom. The Italian actress Monica Bellucci and the Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias are also among the celebrities with assets abroad.

Plenty of names from the world of sport also appear with Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, who according to the ICIJ used an offshore account in Andorra to hoard his income from playing for Al-Ahli in Qatar but later accepted a tax amnesty offer and apparently closed the account.

Another professional football coach,  Carlo Ancelotti, investigated by the Spanish authorities for tax evasion, also appears in the Pandora Papers. Some of the companies which Spain links to the Real Madrid trainer were mentioned in the leaked documents.



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