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ARGENTINA | 21-04-2018 11:12

Report claims Dujovne whitewashed more than 20 million pesos in tax amnesty

Report by Noticias magazine raises questions over tax evasion. Treasury minister chooses not to respond to specific questions, saying that the information is confidential and was leaked by a “criminal gang.”

“It’s not appropriate for me to speak about information protected by fiscal secrecy and that was leaked by the activity of a criminal gang that is being investigated by the judiciary for selling confidential information.”

That was the response offered by Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne this week after revelations published in the latest edition of Noticias magazine thrust him into the media spotlight.

Last week, the weekly publication splashed a story across its frontpage – and seven more inside –alleging that Dujovne had participated in the whitewashing tax amnesty programme carried out by the current administration in 2016 known as the “blanqueo.”

Noticias said in its report that the Treasury minister had whitewashed assets worth more than 20 million pesos under the scheme.

“As Treasury Minister, I fulfill all duties of a government officer,” said Dujovne in a brief press release sent to the Perfil newspaper, following the story published by journalists Rodis Rescalt and Alejandro Rebossio.

“I filed all my affidavits, in which I listed the assets I obtained because of my private activity. That’s public information and any citizen can access it. I always responded to anything that I was asked about it,” he added.

EVASION

The news about Dujovne’s involvement in the whitewashing scheme doesn’t mean he committed a crime. The government initiative was voted for by Congress and was not a public officer when he entered into the scheme.

However, the report shows he had a large amount of money previously outside the country that hadn’t been declared before the AFIP tax bureau, making him liable to the crime of aggravated tax evasion.

The story published in Noticias, owned by Editorial Perfil SA, said that Dujovne participated in the whitewashing initiative in August 2016, some four months or so before he was appointed a government official on January 3, 2017. By not declaring his assets previously, the Treasury minister avoided paying taxes on them, opening himself up to charges of tax evasion.

CRITICISM

Dujove faced criticism this week from a wide array of opposition leaders and lawmakers, some of whom called for his resignation. Others said they would ask the Treasury Minister to be questioned further because of his actions.

“[Energy Minister Juan José] Aranguren, [Finance Minister Luis] Caputo and Dujovne should resign,” said Proyecto Sur-Unen Senator Fernando Solanas. “All government officers are obligated to set the example, especially those with a high-rank. Tax evasion is a crime across the world but here the president is minimising it.”

Meanwhile, Victory Front (FpV) lawmaker Agustín Rossi said his party would move forward with a request for Dujovne to be questioned by lawmakers.

“We don’t to have a similar situation than the one with Caputo, who ended up running away,” he said, referring to the questioning Finance Minister Luis Caputo faced in Congress, which ended in farce after a controversial note was sent by the government official to another lawmaker.

‘PRIVATE’

Speaking to Perfil earlier this week, Transport Minister Guillermo Dietrich backed Dujovne and questioned reporters for looking at the previous activity of the current minister, arguing it was private.

“They are focusing on the previous private life of someone who is now a government officer and that can lead to the information being distorted,” he said.

Noticias’ Economy Editor Alejandro Rebossio, who coauthored the story, recalled that Dujovne held previous employment as an economic consultant, as a guest speaker for media outlets, as the head of Banco Patagonia and as an advisor to a senator from the Radical Party of Formosa.

“He had money he had not declared, and he participated in the whitewashing programme. The main issue here is that he committed tax evasion before being a government officer,” Rebossio argued. “Simple tax evasion for over 1.5 million pesos in taxes is penalised with two to six years of prison, while aggravated tax evasion for over 15 million pesos has penalties [ranging from] three years and six months to nine years.”

EXPLANATIONS

Since the news broke, Dujovne has been reluctant to provide detailed explanations on his involvement in the scheme, or the source of the money in question.

Noticias sent a list of questions seeking answers from the minister, but he declined to respond. Instead, he sent a statement thin on details that criticised a “criminal gang” for leaking his private information.

The Treasury minister was referring to the group of people arrested last February for allegedly leaking information about Gianfranco Macri, the brother of the president, who had also participated in the blanqueo.

Among those arrested were AFIP employees and the businessmen Leandro Rodríguez.

Despite the minister’s unwillingness to provide detailed explanations on the source of the funds, Dujovne has made statements about tax amnesty schemes and whitewashes on the record previously.

In 2016, while working as an economic consultant, he told one media outlet: “A whitewashing initiative is basically an opportunity for those who have evaded taxes to put their assets under the tax bureau and use them in Argentina, without breaking the law.” – TIMES, ORIGINAL REPORTING BY NOTICIAS

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