During his time in office, former president Néstor Kirchner had a famous phrase which he used to justify shady business deals: “It’s a private issue”. President Mauricio Macri might want to adapt the phrase to his time in power: “It’s a private deal”.
Macri’s first public activity in 2018 was a visit on Tuesday to a wind farm in Rawson, the biggest in the country, operated by the company Genneaia, of the Macro Group. Macri’s government has long been betting on the future of renewable energy. His family’s businesses have too.
In 2016, Sideco Americana — the Macri family’s insignia firm — created four companies in the name of an accountant. In cahoots with an associate firm, and without a public tender process, they acquired six wind farms in Chubut province and at Miramar in Buenos Aires province. The Spanish firm Isolux won the tenders and later sold them on in two transactions. The Macris’ firm paid US$25 million for the first package of wind farms and last year sold them to a company of the Macro Group (Genneia, whose wind farm Macri visited on Tuesday) and a Chinese company (Goldwind). They profited US$15 million with just one of the farms, three sources directly involved in the transaction told this journalist.
Two weeks after Macri took office, the accountant Mariano Payaslian founded Usir Argentina SA. It was December 29, 2015 and the firm was to operate in financial transactions with its address being the accountant’s office, Gizzi & Payaslian, and the president of the film being Payaslian himself.
Three months later, the accountant founded Parques Polices Miramar SA. Six months later, on September 5, 2016 he created the firms Sideli SA and Sidsel SA. In all four companies, Payaslian appears as an associate and as president.
Isolux-Corsun had won a public tender during the previous Kirchner administrations for the wind farms Loma Blanca I, II, III and IV in Chubut province. The Spanish company was immersed in a financial crisis and several corruption cases. Its contracts for the wind farms were at risk of collapsing over supposed inability to invest. The company was former associate of IECSA (once owned by Franco Macri and then Ángelo Calcaterra, the president’s cousin). It then began secret talks with Macri family businesses so it could step away from its shares in Argentina.
On October 19, 2016, Isolux announced a deal with Sideli SA and Sidsel SA “for the sale of the wind farm developments at the Loma Blanca site”, according to the company’s press release. The sites were Loma Blanca I, II, III and IV. “The price of the transaction, which includes the four phases of the wind farm, surpassed US$ 25 million”, it claimed. For the sale to go through, the national government, via the state firm Enarsa and Banco Nación had to approve the transaction. And they did. The Spanish firm had already begun its own divestment process to leave Argentina, according to the same press release.
However, five weeks later, on November 25, 2016, Isolux won a tender process to develop another two wind farms in the current government’s Renovar 1.5 programme. The company was being watched by Juan José Aranguren’s Energy and Mining Ministry because it had only met its investment obligations for one of the four farms that it had secured during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administrations. Even still, it then won tender processes for another two contracts: Loma Blanca VI and the wind farm at Miramar, which is able to produce 100 MW and 97 MW, twice as much as the older wind farms.
None of the public documents available about Usir, Sideli, Sidsel or Parques Eólicos Miramar SA bear the names of the Macri family’s firms or their associates. However, asked by this journalist, the accountant confirmed that 10 or 12 percent of the conglomerate is owned by Sideco Americana. Socma (Sociedades Macri) is also a stakeholder but with a smaller percentage.
Payaslian is very close with the Macri family. In the last few years, he has appeared as a trustee of Sideco Americana and the construction firm IECSA. His studio Gizzi & Payaslian has offered services to Isolux and IECSA.
Other associates of Sideli, Sidsel, Usir and Parques Eólicos Miramar include “a European investment fund linked to solar energy” — the name of the fund was unavailable — and the finance companies Helios Partners SA and Selena Partners SA, controlled by old allies of Macri: the executives Pablo Emilio Basualdo, Mariano Alberto Bernardo Arrigo and Juan Edgardo Srodek. All three are members of the KBR Group, a finance firm that worked for Macri in debt financing processes during his administration of the Buenos Aires City government. Srodek was also campaign chief for the PRO party in Buenos Aires province in 2005.
The call for tender for the Miramar wind farm opened on October 26, 2016. Isolux won the tender at the end of November and then sold the contract to the firms in Payaslian's name. The Macri holding and its associates created the group that would eventually take hold of the business operations in March 2016, six months before the the tender process began and eight months before Isolux won the contract from the State. Asked by this journalist about the contradiction in the dates, Payaslian said: “Its part of the preparatory stage of the contract, the tenders were postponed”.
By September 2017, eight months after Isolux had begun to divest from the wind farms, the companies created by Sideco Americana and its associates began selling off. According to sources in the companies, the decision was taken in February 2017 and the reason was “the need to step away from businesses tied to the State” because of the Correo Argentino scandal which exposed the Macri family’s conflicts of the interest.
One of the wind farms, Loma Blanca VI was sold for around US$ 40 million to Genneia, the company of banker Jorge Brito — under investigation in the Ciccone case — between May and September 2017. The amount was confirmed to this journalist by three sources with direct access to the contracts signed among the companies. They had purchased it for US$ 25 million along with three other farms. The profits for the Macri family holding and its associates was around US$ 15 million in one year.
The remaining farms acquired by Isolux were sold to the Chinese firm Goldwind in May 2017, a date that coincides with Macri’s visit to China that same month. The sale of the second package of farms was for approximately US $22 million, according to one of the firms involved. The Macri family holding denied that amount. It did not provide another figure.
This investigation saw companies and advisers — the private parties in these contracts — providing information. Two State entities, asked to provide explanations, refused to offer these or never responded to requests for an interview.
The Competition Defence Commission refused to provide information about the identities of the individuals behind Sideli and Sidsel because “this is confidential information”, according to the sources within the national government. The true identities of the stakeholders do not appear in General Inspector of Justice documents either. This journalist reached out to the Energy and Mining Ministry on Thursday and Friday but it did not answer any questions.
That ministry’s Renovar programme seeks to generate electric energy via wind farms and solar energy, among other renewable ventures. A noble objective offering an unbeatable opportunity for those in the know: it is basically a financing business that offers a 10 percent average turnover in dollars over 20 years.
This article appeared originally in Spanish in "Perfil".