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Cuban Officials in the Panama Papers

Cuban Officials in the Panama Papers / Hablemos Press

Hablemos Press, Cuban Journalists and others* (see below), 13 May 2016 —
Officials of the Cuban Communist Party hired a Swiss attorney to
establish offshore companies for their global business activities, the
Panama Papers reveal. The unprecedented leak of 11.5-million documents
from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama exposed the offshore
actions and suspicious financial transactions of chiefs of state,
government officials and celebrities worldwide.

Cuban law does not include any specific legislation regarding State
functionaries and offshore enterprises, however such activities would be
questionable in the strictly communist country.

The documents reveal that Albert-Louis Dupont Willemin, a lawyer from an
aristocratic Swiss family, was a high-level legal advisor and
intermediary in more than 20 offshore concerns with commercial ties to
Cuba. Dupont Willemin, who also represents Guatemala as honorary consul
in Geneva, created two offshore companies, located in the British Virgin
Islands, via the registered agent Mossack Fonseca—Curtdale Investments
Limited, and Ardpoint Company, Inc. Dupont Willemin’s office stated that
he had no interest in commenting on this matter.

Hernán Aguilar Parra, member of the [Cuban] National Assembly of
People’s Power, appears in the Panama Papers as director of both
companies. Parra ceased being a member of the Assembly in November 2015,
a year after the general elections of 2014.

According to the leaked information, the tax havens are associated with
Grupo Empresarial Tabacuba, a state-run company that controls all
production and sale of Cuban tobacco. Parra also served as director of
Tabacuba until 2015. It is believed that Parra has left the tobacco
business.

“The deputies (of the Cuban assembly) have restrictions,” said a
spokesperson from the Cubalex Center for Legal Information. “The
function of the deputies is ad honores (they do not seek compensation)
and cannot be utilized for personal gain. It is one of the duties
established by existing law.” The spokesperson continued, “The law does
not impose on the managers or directors of companies any restriction
with respect to establishing relations with private firms. However, it
would not be very well regarded for a State official, taking advantage
of the function of his position, to establish commercial relations with
private companies.”

The former director of production for Tabacuba, Inocente Osvaldo
Encarnación, was also tied to the offshore Ardpoint Company Inc. During
a telephone interview, Osvaldo Encarnación confirmed that he held shares
in a company, but declined to name it. Likewise, he also refused to
comment on his ties to Ardpoint.

The records of Mossack Fonseca were obtained by the German publication
Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with colleagues of the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)

Offshore Interests

Although the leaked data do not indicate any specific violation of the
law, they do offer an intriguing perspective on the web of relationships.

Corporación Panamericana, headquartered in Havana, is the responsible
party for providing the services of Mossack Fonseca to Cuban companies.
According to the documents, the Cuban attorney Katiuska Penado Moreno
has been the firm’s legal representative. During a brief telephone
interview, Penado Moreno claimed to have no ties “currently” to Mossack
Fonseca nor to Corporación Panamericana.

Penado Moreno’s name appeared in the Panama Papers in relation to four
offshore companies: Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd., Mercaria
Trading, Caribbean Sugar Trader, y Sanford Financial Management. Penado
Moreno appears as “beneficial owner”—a legal term for when property
rights belong to one person despite the legal title belonging to
another. Dupont Willemin appears as director of the four firms.

Through Mossack Fonseca, Dupont Willemin founded Racuza S.A., a firm
that sells computers, peripherals and software to the Cuban market.

The general director of foreign investments for Cuba’s Ministry of
Foreign Commerce, Déborah Rivas Saavedra, is named in the Panama Papers
as director of Racuza. Similarly, she appears as director of Miramar
Investment Corporation Ltd and Caribbean Sugar Trader. After two days of
trying to contact Rivas Saavedra, her office directed requests for
information to Roberto Berrier Castro, director of the Center for
Foreign Commerce and Investment. Berrier said that he had no information
on the matter.

Among Racuza’s assistant directors are José L Fernández de Cossío,
former Cuban ambassador to Japan, as well as Porfirio Medero Paiva and
Hermes Vaillant, two Cuban attorneys who work for Panamericana. Paiva,
Cossío and Vaillant also are listed as directors of Miramar Investment
Corporation Ltd and Caribbean Sugar Trader. It was not possible to
locate any of them for comments.

The Panama Papers expose the legal agreements between the Cuban
government and Mossack Fonseca.

International Juridical Consultants (CJI) is a Cuban law firm that lends
assistance and legal consultation to privately-owned businesses and
companies. It is also a legal partner of Mossack Fonseca. The firm
became the principal agent between the Cuban government and Mossack
Fonseca in charge of providing legal services.

Upon being contacted, CJI directed information requests to attorney René
de Jesús Burguet Rodríguez, whose name also appears in an email exchange
between CJI and Mossack Fonseca. No reply had been received as of press
time.

The leaked data include other links between officials and offshore
enterprises.

The Union of Hydraulic Research and Projects is a consulting service of
the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), the government
agency in charge of hydraulic networks and sewerage systems on the
Island. The Union appears as a shareholder in Técnica Hidráulica, an
offshore company headquartered in the British Virgin Islands and created
through Corporación Panamericana. The company, property of a commercial
enterprise of INRH called Técnica Hidráulica S.A., operated until 2015,
when, according to the Panama Papers, it was liquidated.

CJI was in charge, according to a contract, of representing the legal
affairs of the offshore companies of Técnica Hidráulica S.A., which are
run by Mossack Fonseca.

The Panama Papers identified Wilfredo Leyva Armesto, also known as
William Leyva, as the director of Técnica Hidráulica. Leyva could not be
contacted for comments.

A spokesperson for Cuba’s National Assembly said that they could not
respond to questions related to the Panama Papers.

*This work is a collaboration of the Czech Center for Investigative
Journalism, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Independent Cuban
Journalists, Cubanet and Diario de Cuba.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Cuban Officials in the Panama Papers / Hablemos Press –
Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/cuban-officials-in-the-panama-papers-hablemos-press/

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