Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña briefed the Lower House yesterday (Photo via Casa Rosada)

Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña defended Finance Minister Luis Caputo from accusations from the opposition yesterday and committed his presence before a Lower House committee to answer questions about the public debt and his offshore associations.

Peña made the comments on Wednesday as he briefed the Lower House and while under fire from the both hard-line opposition lawmakers – such as the Frente para la Victoria – and from the Bloque Justicialista, which has typically taken a more moderate stance with the government. Both the FpV and the caucus chaired by Pablo Kosiner had expressed their concerns about Caputo.

“Concerning your request that Minister Caputo visit Congress, visit a committee, to speak about both the debt and how it is used, as well as the accusations that have been made against his person, we can confirm that he can come, at a time and day to be scheduled with the Lower House’s authorities. He can be here next week to answer all of the questions that you have set out” said Peña to Kosiner.

Pablo Kosiner, chair of the Bloque Justicialista
Pablo Kosiner, chair of the Bloque Justicialista

Last week La Nación and Perfil published documents presented to the US’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showing that Finance Minister Luis Caputo owned Noctua Partners LLC, a company registered in the United States whose activities were revealed in the release of the Paradise Papers in November of 2017.

The information challenges the explanation the minister had provided regarding his involvement in the company when his name showed up in the trove of 13.4 million documents that were hacked and leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICJ) last year.

Ahead of Peña’s briefing, the Bloque Justicialista submitted a written request noting that “there is a worrying delay in the production of complete, official, public and reliable information produced by the Finance Ministry about the state of the national debt.”

The lawmakers pointed to an 8-month delay in the publication of the data and argued that the US $63 billion increase in the public debt from 2015 to 2017 “had no impact on the development of our country but rather increased capital flight to the detriment of Argentine’s interests and putting the future country at risk.”

Congress can request ministers to appear before a committee and to provide explanations for their actions.

Peña steadfastly defended Caputo before lawmakers.

“We absolutely confirm Luis Caputo as Finance Minister because we trust in his honesty and credibility” he said, parrying attacks from the FpV who had sought Caputo’s resignation by saying that “corruption is (José) López’s bags. Corruption is what we saw during your government, and the people have already spoken their mind.”

Peña was also critical of the “strategic idea to try to argue that offshore businesses equal corruption” and said that the minister had nothing to hide.

Peña was briefing Congress for the first time in 2018.