Photo via La Nación.

Local news sites La Nación and Perfil have gotten ahold of 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.

This information rebukes 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.

Back then, he said he was just an adviser of the company, which operated in tax havens such as Delaware and the Cayman Islands and that, “as far as he knew,” he didn’t own any stock in the company. “It is not important either because it is a company that is not worth anything on its own, it’s worth depends on the portfolio it manages,” he said. However, in the documents turned over to the SEC, the company indicates that “our main owner is Noctua Partners II LP, a company registered in the Cayman Islands, and indirectly, by Luis Caputo and Martín Guyot.”

La Nación explains that Caputo is described as an “indirect owner” because he actually owned the company through several others, which owned stock of Noctua. “Between 2009 and 2015, he was the proprietor of 75 percent of the stock of Princess International Global Ltd, a company created in the Cayman Islands. In an operation resembling Russian nesting dolls, Caputo controlled between 50 and 74 percent of Affinis Partners II through Princess International. And then, Affinis Partners II controls at least 75 percent of Noctua International WMG LLC,” the site explains.

Caputo failed to disclose that information – that he owned the company, not his involvement in it, which he did – in this tax returns from 2015 and 2016, which he presented to the Anti-Corruption Office (OA). On paper, he divested himself from the businesses in November 2015, a month before taking office as the Macri administration’s Secretary of Finance. 

The ICIJ informed that, along with 95 media partners, it explored the 13.4 million leaked files from offshore service providers and company registries of tax havens. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung originally obtained the files. The papers include almost 7 million loan agreements, emails, financial statements, and 50 years of paperwork from Appleby, an offshore firm.

“As a whole, the Paradise Papers files expose offshore holdings of political leaders and their financiers as well as household-name companies that slash taxes through transactions conducted in secret. Financial deals of billionaires and celebrities are also revealed in the documents,” the ICIJ stated.

The news comes a few weeks after former Undersecretary of the Presidency, Valentín Díaz Gilligan, resigned from his post after an investigation by Spanish newspaper El País revealed  that Díaz Gilligan hid US $1.2 million in a bank account in Andorra, a country which, until last year, had banking secrecy laws and was considered to be a tax haven.

The former undersecretary told the Spanish newspaper that the money was not his, and that he was only involved in the company as a favor to a friend. The friend in question, he said, was Francisco “Paco” Casal, a renowned businessman who manages football players and who is also the owner of sports TV channel ‘GolTV.’

However, mounting pressure from inside and outside the government led him to leave his post. La Nación journalist Hugo Alconada Mon, who is part of the ICIJ and was part of the team that revealed the information regarding Caputo, highlighted that the two officials’ situations are quite similar, but that only one of them resigned as a result of it. 

However, leaders of the opposition are not willing to let go this issue disappear.

Following the publication of the Paradise Papers, Unidad Ciudadana, led by Cristina Kirchner, demanded that Caputo immediately resign, arguing that “at the very least, the management of offshore societies and funds implicates minister Caputo in the crime of tax evasion.” And in fact, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s first bill as a Senator is aimed at banning public officials from being involved in offshore accounts in any capacity.

“None of the three branches of the government can have officials who use tax havens, and at the same time demand that citizens meet their fiscal obligations. Most of the Cabinet is involved in the Panama and Paradise Papers; and the case of Finance Minister and serial endeudador (as in, person in charge of issuing public debt) Luis Caputo is one of the most obscene,” said the former President when describing the reasons that led her to introduce the bill.

So far, however, it does not seem like Caputo’s job is on the line.