Saturday, June 3

Piñera, president of Chile, faces impeachment after Pandora papers leak | chili

Opposition politicians launched an impeachment process against Chilean President Sebastián Piñera for possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company, after new details about the agreement were revealed in Pandora newspapers.

Lawmakers cited an “ethical duty” to hold the president accountable for alleged irregularities in his participation in the controversial Dominga project.

Earlier this month, the Chilean prosecution said it would open an investigation into possible corruption charges related to bribery and tax violations linked to the sale, which was completed in the British Virgin Islands.

The move is the latest blow for the center-right Piñera as he nears the end of a turbulent four-year term. Presidential and legislative elections will be held in November, and polls suggest left-wing candidates are likely to gain ground.

The Pandora documents, the largest treasure trove of leaked extraterritorial data in history, revealed new details of the controversial mining deal.

Fast guide

What are Pandora’s papers?


The Pandora documents are the largest treasure trove of leaked data exposing the secrecy of tax havens in history. They provide a rare window into the hidden world of offshore finance, shedding light on the financial secrets of some of the richest people in the world. The files were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which shared access with The Guardian, BBC and other media outlets around the world. In total, the hoard consists of 11.9 million leaked files from a total of 14 overseas service providers, totaling 2.94 terabytes of information. That makes it larger in volume than the Panama Papers (2016) and the Paradise Papers (2017), two previous high seas leaks.

Where do Pandora documents come from?

The ICIJ, a Washington DC-based nonprofit journalistic organization, is not identifying the source of the leaked documents. To facilitate a global investigation, the ICIJ granted remote access to the documents to journalists from 117 countries, including reporters from the Washington Post, Le Monde, El País, Süddeutsche Zeitung, PBS Frontline and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In the UK, the investigation has been led by The Guardian and BBC Panorama.

What is an offshore service provider?

The 14 overseas service providers on the run provide corporate services to individuals or companies seeking to do business abroad. Typically, his clients seek to quietly establish companies or trusts in lightly regulated tax havens, such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Panama, the Cook Islands and the US state of South Dakota. Foreign registered companies can be used to hold assets such as property, airplanes, yachts, and investments in stocks and shares. By keeping these assets in an offshore company, it is possible to conceal from the rest of the world the identity of the person to whom they actually belong, or the “beneficial owner”.

Why do people move money abroad?

Generally for tax, secrecy or regulatory reasons. Offshore jurisdictions tend not to have corporate or income taxes, making them potentially attractive to wealthy individuals and businesses who do not want to pay taxes in their home countries. Although morally questionable, this type of tax evasion can be legal. Offshore jurisdictions also tend to be very secretive and publish little or no information about the companies or trusts incorporated there. This can make them useful for criminals, such as tax evaders or money launderers, who need to hide money from tax or law enforcement authorities. It is also true that people in corrupt or unstable countries can use offshore providers to put their assets out of reach of repressive governments or criminal adversaries who may try to seize them or try to circumvent currency restrictions. Others may go abroad for inheritance or estate planning reasons.

Has everyone in the Pandora docs done something wrong?

No. Moving money abroad is not in itself illegal and there are legitimate reasons why some people do it. Not all the people named in the Pandora newspapers are suspected of wrongdoing. Those who are can be accused of a wide range of misconduct: from the morally questionable to the potentially criminal. The Guardian only publishes stories based on leaked documents after considering the public interest. That’s a broad concept that can include promoting transparency by disclosing secret overseas owners of UK property, even when those owners have done nothing wrong. Other articles can illuminate issues of important public debate, raise moral issues, shed light on how the offshore industry operates, or help inform voters about politicians or donors in the interest of democratic accountability.

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Piñera’s family sold their stake in the Dominga mine project in 2010 to their close friend and business partner, Carlos Alberto Délano. The investigation of Pandora’s papers found evidence to suggest that the third installment of the payment contained a clause that required the government not to strengthen environmental protections in the proposed area for the mine in northern Chile.

Jaime Naranjo, a left-wing legislator in the lower house and one of the promoters of the impeachment process, said that Piñera had “openly violated the constitution … seriously compromising the honor of the nation.”

Piñera, whose fortune amounts to 2.5 billion dollars according to Forbes magazine, has rejected the accusations and argued that no irregularities were found in the deal.

Amid scrutiny of his business affairs, Piñera announced on Monday a state of emergency in four southern provinces of the country where tensions have risen between the Mapuche people, Chile’s largest indigenous group, the police and powerful landowners. Unrest has rocked the region since police killed an unarmed Mapuche man in 2018, and the cover-up that followed sparked angry protests across the country.

The new measures will restrict movement and the right of assembly following the recent arson attacks, and will further increase the military and police presence in the area. Indigenous activists have questioned the timing and purpose of the measure, announced on the anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.

They say the state of emergency, which will last 15 days but can be extended to 30, has been enacted to cynically divert attention from investigations into the president.

Piñera also remains under pressure from the brutal repression of protests against inequalities in 2019 and 2020. His former Minister of the Interior, Andrés Chadwick, was accused by congress at the height of the protests in December 2019, and Piñera himself narrowly avoided impeachment in a similar vote a few days later.

In April, Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who worked to hold General Dictator Augusto Pinochet responsible for the crimes committed during his 1973-1990 regime, filed an indictment in the international criminal court in The Hague alleging Piñera’s complicity in alleged crimes of human rights during the upheaval. The president has denied wrongdoing.

The last motion to impeach the president could be voted on in Congress before the first round of Chile’s general elections on November 21. If approved by the Lower House, it goes to the Senate, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority if Piñera is removed from office.

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