Remember the Panama Papers? The 11.5 million documents from the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca that were leaked in April, revealing the tax evasion and shady financial activities of the world’s elite — Well, they are back! And again President Mauricio Macri’s is being dragged into the limelight.
This time, however, it doesn’t directly affect him — not like that time documents surfaced revealing he was on the board of two offshore companies that were set up in the 90’s. The latest scandal involves two of his brothers, Gianfranco and Mariano: the agency against economic crimes PROCELAC released a statement asserting that a German prosecutor’s office sent them information regarding 69 people — Macri’s brothers among them — and 11 offshore companies after estimating they could have been set up for money laundering or tax evasion purposes.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the Macri brothers are tied up with suspicious business handlings carried out by two companies set up in Panama and Uruguay, and have assets in the German UBS Deutschland bank, La Nación reports. Let’s recall that three journalists working for La Nación were involved in the investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that revealed the shady practices of key Argentine figures who used Mossack Fonseca’s services.
It’s fair to clarify, however, that using offshore accounts and companies is not a crime on its own in Argentina as long as the assets have been declared to the tax collecting agency (AFIP).
If assets are not declared, then this could be ground for economic crimes such as money laundering and tax evasion. Shortly after the Panama Papers story surfaced, former AFIP Head Elías Lisicki told The Bubble that, based on the information available to the public, Macri hadn’t broken the law by not revealing his involvement in the offshore companies he was part of.
“A person is only obliged to reveal his or her involvement in an offshore company if he or she is a shareholder or a director who earns a fee for his or her role. If you’re neither, you don’t have to report anything to the fiscal agency since you don’t earn any capital from the venture,” Lisicki said.
President Macri has used that very argument to justify why he didn’t report his involvement with Fleg Trading Ltd, of which he appears as a director, in his 2008 and 2009 tax statements. However, the German Prosecutor’s Office informed the press that the companies the other Macris are part of are showing signs of suspicious activity in the German financial system which, if confirmed, could get them in trouble.