Spanish newspaper El País reported this morning that Undersecretary of the Presidency Valentín Díaz Gilligan hid US $1.2 million in a bank account in Andorra, a country which, until last year, had banking secrecy and was considered to be a tax haven.
As of 2018, Andorra renounced banking secrecy and began sharing information with countries that belong to the European Union – the principality is not a member – and the account where Díaz Gilligan’s name shows up became accessible.
The site also reported that in August 2008, the same bank declined opening two accounts under the name of then -Neuquén Province Governor Jorge Sapag, arguing the initial deposits he wanted to make – which amounted to US $5 million – came from bribes. But we’ll get back to that later.
The account Díaz Gilligan was involved with was opened in 2012 and remained active until at least 2014. During that period, he held different posts at the Buenos Aires City administration, when current President Mauricio Macri was the mayor. The company was called Line Action. On paper, it managed football players. It was based in Panama – another tax haven.
Díaz Gilligan told the Spanish newspaper that the money was not his, as he only was involved in the company because he was doing a favor to a friend of his. The friend in question, he said, was Paco Casal, a Brazilian businessman who manages football players and owns sports TV channel GolTV. “He was undergoing trial, as the tax collecting agency had accused him [he didn’t specify from which country], so he could not formally be a part of the company. I trusted him. The money was never mine. Besides, I did not hold public office back then. I was an external adviser,” he said.
Moreover, he explained he left the company in 2014 – 11 months after he started working for the public sector – because he “didn’t think it was right to stay,” considering he held office. “I had public exposure, I did not want to be part of a company I had no control over. There was no incompatibility, it was not illegal, but it was an activity that produced no income for me,” he added. However, when El País informed him that hours after leaving he, at least on paper, retook his post in the company, he said he didn’t know that had happened.
Government officials defended Díaz Gilligan’s actions, saying they were “satisfied with the explanations he provided.” Speaking at a press conference from the “spiritual retreat” the President and his cabinet members are taking in the beach town of Chapadmalal, Secretary of the Presidency Fernando de Andreis – Gilligan’s immediate superior – said all information “is available for the judiciary, as well as the Anti-Corruption office so they can conduct all investigations they deem necessary.”
“He does not have an offshore company nor anything that looks like it. He worked as an adviser for several companies throughout his life, and this is something that happened before he worked for the City government and obviously the national administration,” he added.
In 2008, the former governor of the Neuquén Province between 2007 and 2015 tried to deposit US $5 million in two accounts belonging to companies created in Belize – another tax haven. He would be the beneficiary of one of them, and his then-Secretary of Natural Resources, Guillermo Coco, of the second one. However, he failed: he was rejected because bank authorities concluded the money had likely come from bribes: “bribes from the Kishner’s [sic] oil. Rejected,” wrote the officials in the comment section of the form that rejected the deposits. The reason why the Kirchner name shows up is not entirely clear.
Sapag’s spokespeople rejected the allegations, saying he never tried to open an account in Andorra, “nor anywhere else in the world.” The documents beg to differ.