Thursday, May 30, 2024

ARGENTINA | 10-04-2024 17:03

Judge lifts tax and banking secrecy rules for ex-president Alberto Fernández in insurance case

Federal judge allows prosecutors to deepen investigation into graft allegations involving former president Alberto Fernández and host of other accused; Court order allows for a deep dive into veteran Peronist politician's financial history, with restrictions on banking and tax secrecy lifted.

A federal court has ordered an injunction barring former president Alberto Fernández from disposing of his assets in the so-called “seguros” insurance graft case, involving a state company from the sector.

This was decided by Federal Judge Julián Ercolini, who also decided to lift the former chief executive’s banking secrecy protections for investigators. 

Similar measures were applied to other officials and several businesspeople.

Fernándezand other former officials were last month charged with fraud in insurance contracts awarded by the ANSES social security administration. The accused allegedly formed a corrupt graft network to siphon off state funds.

The case revolves not so much around the ANSES insurance policies themselves – compulsorily contracted for all state agencies via Nación Seguros according to decree 823/2021 signed by then-President Fernández – as around the payment of “undue” commissions. 

None of those placed under court injunction may sell or dispose of their assets while the case continues.

Ercolini is investigating alleged irregularities in Decree 823/2021, through which the former head of state is accused of imposing an obligation on the public sector to contract insurance services exclusively with Nación Seguros. The manoeuvre consisted of extending loans to pensioners which were unpayable for one reason or another, including death, and then collecting on the insurance. Billions of pesos were allegedly paid to the firm by way of commissions. 

In addition, the judge ordered an injunction barring several others from disposing or selling their property, including the former head of Nación Seguros, Alberto Pagliano, broker Héctor Martínez Sosa, his wife María Cantero, the secretary of the former president, broker Pablo Torres García, and others related to companies named Bachellier, San Ignacio, Castello Mercuri and San Germán, among others.

An injunction was also applied to two former officers of Nación Seguros, who had been dismissed recently: Mauro Tanos, a former member of the La Cámpora political group promoted by the current Government to the firm's general manager, and Marcos Eufemio, a purchasing manager.

Two cooperatives were also investigated last week, “7 de mayo” and “Irigoin.”

Ercolini has asked the Anti-Corruption Office to provide the annual tax returns (public and private) of Alberto Fernández, Pagliano, and María Cantero from 2009 to date. The same was required of Tanos and Eufemio.

The measures had been requested by Carlos Rívolo, head of Federal Prosecutor’s Office number 6, and on Tuesday Federal Criminal and Correctional Court number 11 confirmed proceedings and authorised “an injunction barring individuals and entities from disposing of property” behind the "brokers" scandal.

The initial report was filed by an auditors’ office within Javier Milei’s government, which proclaimed irregularities related to insurance brokerage at ANSES and other bodies during Alberto Fernández's time in office.

The political veteran, who left office last December, may face virtual stagnation of his finances, given that the court order establishes “the freezing of all investments and fixed-term deposits,” and allows for a deep dive into his financial history, with restrictions on banking and tax secrecy lifted.

Judge Erconlini also asked the Central Bank to request any “information from banks and financial institutions, agencies and bureaux de change” about Fernández, starting from 2009 to start.

That information covers “all liabilities such as current account and/or savings account numbers in pesos and/or foreign currency, as well as bank statements with transactions from the time they were opened to date."

The measure also covers “any accounts currently closed and/or where no transactions have been recorded," it states.




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