Three Latin American heads of state in the Pandora Papers: How Lasso, Piñera and Abinader are linked to tax havens
The in-depth investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed this Sunday that 14 active world leaders and 21 other leaders who have already left power have hidden assets and income valued in the billions of dollars not to pay of taxes in tax havens.
The leaked files, called Pandora Papers, include 35 world leaders – still in power or already retired – and more than 300 officials from around the world who have had assets in tax havens or through them.
The Pandora Papers include, among other statesmen, the three current leaders of Latin America: the President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso; the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera and the leader of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader. Additionally, the leaks include other senior Latin American officials: 11 retired leaders, 90 high-level politicians and a central bank governor.
According to leaked documents, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has had ties to 10 offshore companies and trusts in Panama and the states of South Dakota and Delaware, USA: Bretten Trust, Liberty US Trust, Bernini Foundation, Bretten Holdings, Da Vinci Foundation, Real Estate Foundation, Nora Group Investment Corp., Pietro Overseas SA, Positano Trade LLC and Tintoretto International Foundation.
Bretten Trust and Liberty US Trust were created in 2017, and Lasso authorized the transfer to these two trusts of companies managed by two Panamanian private interest foundations, called Bernini and Barberini. According to the rules of each foundation, after Lasso’s death, monthly distributions beneficiaries, including $ 20,000 for their spouse, $ 2,000 for their children and $ 1,500 for his brother.
Lasso told the ICIJ that does not have “no relationship of ownership, control, advantage or interest of any kind” with Bretten Trust and Liberty US Trust and that it has complied at all times with Ecuadorian law which prohibits applicants and public officials to have companies in tax havens.
The other mentioned entities have been dissolved and, as confirmed by the President of the Latin American country, they currently have no legal existence, while the use in the past of any international entity was legitimate.
The Dominican president is linked to two Panamanian companies: Littlecot Inc. and Padreso SA, created before Abinader assumed the presidency of the country. The president told ICIJ that Littlecot Inc. owns family property in the Dominican Republic, while Padresso SA has shares in six other entities with properties and extensions of the private university owned by his family.
The reporters’ investigation determined that the shares of these two companies were initiallyto the carrier‘, a mechanism that made it possible to hide the identity of their owners. In 2018, an attorney for the Abinaders disclosed the names of the brothers as shareholders of the companies.
The journalistic investigation aims to ensure that the current Chilean President Sebastián Piñera was involved in several offshore companies. Did the children of Piñera hold 33.3% of the shares of the Dominga mining project. In December 2010, when Piñera had already been president for nine months, his family sold the shares of his mining company to businessman Carlos Alberto Délano, one of the friends Piñera had been with since childhood. The sale was made through two front companies registered with BVI.
The sale was sealed in two minutes: one signed in Chile for $ 14 million and the other in said tax haven for $ 138 million. Payment was to be made in three installments, but with a contingency: the last payment would only be made if the government of Chile did not declare the Dominga project area of operations as natural sanctuary. Piñera’s executive decided not to promote the environmental initiative and in this way the third tranche was disbursed.
This decision of the Piñera government was preceded by another: in March 2010, the president announced the cancellation of the construction of the thermoelectric power station of Barrancones after a wave of protests from environmentalists. The project was stopped despite the operating permits. At the time, it was not known that Piñera was involved in the Dominga project, according to the objective of the Journalistic Investigation Center (CIPER, Chile).
In addition, the published documents reveal that a few days before Piñera assumed the presidency in 2018, the company Parque Chiloé Overseas Inc. (registered in and linked to the BVI) merged with the Chilean Parque Chiloé SA. This was then absorbed by another Chilean entity, Inversiones Odisea, where four sons of the president they own shares.
Meanwhile, the director of the Piñera family businesses, pointed out to investigators that the tenant of La Moneda I do not participate, he was also unaware of the details of the sale of the Dominga project. At the same time, he clarified that neither Piñera nor any of his direct relatives have control over the companies registered with the BVI.
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