Crime & Justice

Chilean president faces probe spurred by Pandora Papers

Santiago, Oct 8 (EFE).- The Chilean public prosecutor’s office announced Friday the opening of an investigation into President Sebastian Piñera based on revelations in the Pandora Papers, a trove of nearly 12 million leaked files documenting efforts by members of the global elite to shield their wealth.

Information in the papers points to possible violations of tax law in Piñera’s sale of his stake in a mining venture, chief anti-corruption prosecutor Marta Herrera said.

Chile’s CIPER, one of the 150 media partners of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which obtained the Pandora Papers, reported this week on a 2010 transaction involving Minera Dominga.

Documents show that the billionaire Piñera family sold their majority stake in Dominga to businessman Carlos Alberto Delano for $152 million, $138 million of which was conveyed via entities in the British Virgin Islands, a well-known tax haven.

The final tranche of the payment was made conditional on an assurance that the site of the proposed iron ore mine in northern Chile would not be designated as environmentally protected despite its proximity to a reserve that is home to 80 percent of Chile’s Humboldt penguins, according to the ICIJ data.

Piñera was in a position to provide that assurance, as the first of his two terms as president began in March 2010, months before the sale took place.

The prosecutor’s office 2017 probe of the deal found no wrongdoing, but Herrera said that the information from the Pandora Papers was not available then.

“The contract in English in the British Virgin Islands was not incorporated into the (2017) investigation, so it is new evidence,” she said.

Piñera, one of the wealthiest people in Chile, said this week that he put his holdings in blind trust before becoming president in 2010, “precisely to avoid any question of a conflict of interest.”

The congressional opposition plans to try to impeach Piñera, whose second – and final – presidential mandate is set to conclude in March 2022.

Chile’s constitution limits the head of state to two terms, which cannot be consecutive, so Piñera is barred from running for president again.

A vote by lawmakers to remove him before the end of his term would entail a lifetime ban on his holding any public office. EFE


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