Spanish version

GLOBAL INVESTIGATION

Mossack Fonseca and its connection with ‘Lava Jato’

Firm has allegedly been linked to an apartment linked to the Lava Jato investigation.

It was also introduced to Odebrecht officials through the Panama embassy in Brazil.

Lava Jato: corrupción histórica en Brasil

Spanish version

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The information obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has allegedly revealed links between Mossack Fonseca and Brazilian Nelci Warken, identified as the alleged owner of a property in São Paulo through Murray Holding - created by the Panamanian firm in Nevada - which was, according to prosecutors, used to launder money on behalf of the society.

Attorney Carlos Fernando Dos Santos Lima said there is strong evidence that Warken is a "puppet" in the laundering scheme, as she lacks the financial conditions to hold an offshore and an apartment in the high-end Solaris condominium).

According to documents from the firm, obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with other 107 media, there allegedly appears a reference to due diligence of Warken, as well as some of her personal information, such as his address.

"Now we are investigating who is behind it... [because] she doesn't even have documents to travel abroad," said the prosecutor.

Construction company OAS used Solaris condominium "to conceal bribes to agents involved in the criminal scheme of the state oil company Petrobras," they added.

Last March, in an interview with TVN, the partner of the firm that bears his name, Ramón Fonseca Mora, on this issue, said: "we sold a company to a professional in Brazil; This professional resells to a customer; this customer buys an apartment in a building where suspected that [former President Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] has an apartment."

On the same day he also announced his temporary separation as minister-counsellor to the government of Juan Carlos Varela.

Fonseca Mora formalized his resignation on March 31.

Ademir Auada/Foto tomada de internet Expandir Imagen
Ademir Auada/Foto tomada de internet

Signed documents allegedly obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reveal that the client would have been Warken, who also acquired two other companies - Hazelville International Inc. and Woodbay Holdings, S.A., all from Mossack Fonseca - and that behind this was Ademir Auada, a second intermediary in the sale of the mentioned companies.

Auada was a client representative of Mossack Fonseca in Brazil, but whenever he traveled to Panama, the firm would give him VIP treatment. They would be responsible for his care in Panama, sending him drivers, renting executive waiting lounges in Tocumen, arranging appointments and driving him around the city. In Panama, lawyers of the firm would have exchanged communications and documents for the opening of accounts in local banks to companies linked to Auada.

Nelci Warken/Foto tomada de internet Expandir Imagen
Nelci Warken/Foto tomada de internet

Amid the Warken/Auada relationship, the prosecutors believe that there is a third, unidentified person. This conclusion came when they intercepted communications of Auada and Warken - calls intercepted on Nov. 11 and 12 2015 - calling that person "friend" or our "dear friend", thus hiding their identity.

Prosecutors would have reason to have such suspicions. According to documentation obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung, the firm would have given instructions that Warken does not receive any communication, and instead contacted Ademir Auada directly in relation to societies that were supposedly linked to Warken.

Since that aroused suspicions, prosecutors looked closely at Warken's apartment. In addition, in this building - Solaris - converge properties whose owners are leaders of the Workers Party.

For example, former President Lula, as well as Joao Vaccari Neto, former treasurer of the party, has an apartment. Also his wife, Giselda Rousie de Lima, owns a property in the same place, while the sister-in-law of Neto, Giselda Rousie de Lima, had another, which appears to be related to the payment of bribes by the construction company OAS.

And now they discovered another apartment in the same building, linked to the offshore Murray Holdings, created by Mossack Fonseca, and whose ownership is Warken along with Auada.

Sara Montenegro, director of Legal Affairs of Mossack Fonseca, said that "the office in Brazil is a franchised office" and that there was no arrest warrant against the manager of its franchise in Brazil, María Mercedes Riaño.

However, Brazilian judicial officials said "the reports are that María Mercedes [Riaño, and another of the investigated persons]... had temporary prison terms decreed, but they were not fulfilled because they were not located. The judge has not revoked the [order of] prison...therefore, they are considered outlaws."

Montenegro added that Riaño sold a company to a second intermediary - in this case to Ademir Auada - and this, in turn, was sold to "what we call a final customer, a lady [Nelci Warken] for the acquisition of an apartment."

According to Montenegro, that property is located at the Solaris building in São Paulo. "It is a building of high profile that was built by one of the largest construction companies in Brazil, OAS... and it was speculated that President Lula had a property in that building da Silva."

Then, she added, authorities raided the office of Riaño. "It was a completely reckless action, an action in which the procedural guarantees were not respected," said the lawyer. They raided the homes of the employees of Riaño, opened the office and made them to show everything they had, "only for the purpose of seeking information about that society and that customer that had been sold the company."

Montenegro said that they arrested employees to see if they could be linked to Lula.

"Fortunately, after five days, they released them all, including the professional client [Auada], and the client owner of the property, because they realized that she had mortgaged property".

According to Montenegro, Riaño is in Panama because this is your country. On the other hand, Fonseca Mora revealed that Riaño could be questioned by Brazilian prosecutors remotely.

SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY

But for prosecutors, a test of the 'criminal activity' of the office of Mossack Fonseca in Brazil occurred in July 2007, when a person called Carlo Moratelli sent an email to Mossack Fonseca asking that his companies be cancelled, because the Federal Police had raided his office and documents were seized.

The manager of the franchise in Brazil, María Mercedes Riaño, reacted immediately to the urgent tenor of the email. She ordered them to "remove all office papers, customer names, documents to deliver, due diligences, telephone books and erase everything from computers that can be... [and] not to leave for the world open a computer when they go out to lunch or when they are not using it, in an emergency, reset the computer."

About it, Mossack Fonseca Panama, in a statement reported weeks ago, said that everything had been a misunderstanding, and the order from Riaño was to digitize documents. It denied any link with the criminal operations of the investigated.

Brazilian federal justice, in documents related to the arrest of the employees of Mossack Fonseca, ruled that "the use of offshore companies is not a crime. However, the use of offshore companies for money laundering or for the practice of fraud is, obviously, criminalized. Offering offshore for criminals, the company Mossack would be participating, through aid, of the practice of those crimes."

According to the firm, the only relationship between them and Riaño is the assignment of the name of his firm for use in Brazil. "She has total autonomy of control in the management of your company decision-making. She pays her tax return and even her customers paid to her directly and she pays us the portion of our fees, our franchise costs," said the firm to this newspaper.

ODEBRECHT

María Mercedes Riaño would have had a relationship with the Embassy of Panama in Brasilia. This would be revealed in the documentation obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, according to which, a contact of the firm report reveals details of a dinner provided by Andre Luiz Campos Rabello (director superintendent) and Paulo Levita (managing director) of Odebrecht to the Panamanian diplomatic in Brazil.

This report states that the then Ambassador, Gabriela García Carranza, would have submitted Riaño as a lawyer with the Embassy. Always, according to the documentation the Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained and shared by ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca would have issued a report stating that the contact with Odebrecht executives had taken place and that Riano had sent a message of thanks for dinner, offering the services of the firm in Panama.

According to the report, it would have spoken support that Odebrecht could offer to the Embassy and Panamanian companies in Brazil.

Garcia Carranza - who had been named in Brazil in September 2009 by the then President Ricardo Martinelli--is the sister-in-law of Riccardo Francolini, a close collaborator of Martinelli. And, like other members of his so-called "zero circle", Francolini has been mentioned in the investigations of corruption in Panama.

Questioned by La Prensa, the former ambassador said: "I have never presented María Mercedes Riaño as a lawyer for the ebassy. She is a childhood friend, to whom I turned in 2009 when I came to Brazil as ambassador, authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama, to ask about the situation that the embassy was in at that time. This is: employed without contracts, administrative disorder, among other abnormalities." In addition, García distanced herself from any possible relationship with Odebrecht.

However, according to the documentation of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Garcia would have met with Rabello in Brazil, on March 21, 2011. According to these documents, the embassy of Panama in Brazil would have recommended Mossack Fonseca to Odebrecht, and the firm listed the company as a "prospect" and  Levite and Rabello as contacts.

But the partner of the firm, Ramón Fonseca Mora, said recently that they have "never" had a relationship with construction company Odebrecht. "We don't want to know anything about it," he said.

These three cases would be only a small fraction of those that appear in documents obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Lava Jato: corrupción histórica en Brasil

Todo comenzó como una investigación rutinaria en marzo de 2014. Las autoridades brasileñas recibieron información sobre varias pequeñas empresas de lavado de autos utilizadas para el lavado de activos. A medida que indagaban y encontraban nueva información, el Ministerio Público Federal y la Justicia Federal de Paraná encontraron indicios de que el dinero que pasaba por los pequeños negocios tenía orígenes mucho más complejos y poderosos.
Descubrieron la existencia de una red de empresas brasileñas que eran contratadas por Petrobras, luego de pactar precios y asegurarse el triunfo en licitaciones.
El truco era inflar entre un 3% y 4% el precio real para luego repartir el dinero entre los directivos de Petrobras relacionados a esa contratación. Un pedazo del pastel para todos. Las autoridades brasileñas relacionaron a varias empresas de importancia, como Andrade Gutierrez, OAS, Camargo Correa, Engevix, Odebrecht, Querós Galvão, Galvão Enghenaria, Mendes Junior, UTC, entre otras.
Una de las piezas importantes en este rompecabezas fue la cooperación del empresario Alberto Youssef –uno de los operarios de los esquemas de lavado, también llamado doleiros–, investigado por su participación en esta compleja red, quien se ofreció como colaborador de la investigación a cambio de rebajas de penas (delator premiado). A medida que Youssef describía la metodología utilizada, las autoridades brasileñas fueron ampliando el compás de su investigación a través de fases. Cada fase comprende el descubrimiento de un nuevo método de operación. Hasta ahora, se han trabajado en 24 fases.
Algunas de ellas incluyen a Panamá, como el caso de Constructora Internacional del Sur, S.A., y varias otras sociedades vinculadas con firmas legales panameñas, incluida, Mossack Fonseca.
Las acusaciones de la Fiscalía brasileña han sido implacables, e incluyen a decenas de empresarios, diputados, senadores, ex diputados federales e, incluso, expresidentes, como Fernando Collor de Mello, acusado formalmente por la Fiscalía por su participación en este entramado de lavado de activos, y al expresidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, al igual que muchos otros políticos vinculados al actual gobierno de Dilma Rousseff.

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