Chile: The Piñera Papers

By Francisco Herreros on October 7, 2021

Piñera, awash in money

The Pandora Papers is among the largest international collaborative journalistic investigations of all time, with the participation of 151 media from 117 countries and more than 600 journalists, who analyzed 11.9 million documents, with a “weight” of 2.94 TeraBytes, about 14 service providers and management of companies and trusts in different countries (7), in jurisdictions considered as tax havens and the Chilean political class has not been left out of its revelation, especially Chilean President Sebastián Piñera.

In 2010 Piñera sold his 33% stake in the Dominga project to his friend, convicted felon Carlos Alberto Délano, for US$152 million, while he was serving his first term as the head of the republic.

He received US$14 million in cash in Santiago and the balance of US$138 million in three installments of US$106 million in the tax haven of the Virgin Islands, where Piñera has deposited most of his muddy and elusive fortune.

The detail is that the first payment was made on December 10, 2010; the second on January 18, 2011 and the balance was pending until December 31, 2011, was conditioned that the government could not declare the area where Dominga would be located as a natural reserve, which finally happened, and therefore, the third payment was stopped.

Given that the operation was carried out while Piñera was President of the Republic, administrative offenses such as bribery (1); illegal exaction (2); influence peddling (3); violation of secrets (4); conflict of interest (5) and incompatible negotiation (6) were established ex officio.

The same old story: Piñera used the government to enrich himself and his friends; as before he profited with the liquidation of public assets or alternatively or indistinctly violated ethics and legal norms.

Events such as the fraudulent bankruptcy of Banco de Talca, the purchase and sale of Chilevisión, the purchase and sale of LAN airlines and the millionaire fines for collusion, the purchase of shares of Exalmar, the use of zombie companies and shell companies in financial havens to evade taxes; the one-eyed trusts; the triangulation of AFP Habitat, Moneda Asset and Inmobiliaria La Construcción and the Cascadas, Chispas, Penta, SQM and Enjoy cases, have as a common factor the direct or indirect, public or secret and legal or illegal participation of Sebastián Piñera Echeñique.

All this is very well known. The question is why the institutions, the press, the parliament and the regulatory or supervisory bodies, such as the Comptroller General of the Republic, the Internal Revenue Service, the Superintendence of Banks and Financial Institutions and the Securities and Exchange Commission, have given a pass to each of these shady operations and have let it go so far, at the price of degrading, perhaps irreparably, the prestige and reputation of the Presidency of the Republic.

Family business

The relationship of the Piñera and Délano families in the Dominga project is long standing. In fact, in June 2010, Piñera ordered the relocation of the Barrancones thermoelectric plant, a project that Suez Energy cancelled in August of the same year, due to financial unfeasibility and the need for a new environmental impact study. But not to “protect the environment, nature and our biodiversity and, at the same time, to comply with and enforce the law and be respectful of our institutions and our rule of law” as he said on the occasion, but to clear Punta de Choros for the Dominga project.

By the way, Piñera’s intervention, against all logic, wind and tide in the environmentally criminal Dominga project, acquired a frenetic pace, because he knows that if he does not leave it installed before the end of his government, his crony Délano will lose a ton of money.

“Surprisingly”, last April, the Environmental Court accepted a Dominga claim, and annulled the resolutions of the Environmental Evaluation Commission of Coquimbo and the Committee of Ministers during the government of Bachelet II, and ordered a new vote of the Environmental Commission of Coquimbo, this time “in accordance with the law”.

This took place last August 11, two days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report describing irreversible environmental damage was published, and as was predictable, the approval won by 11 votes to 1.

A ruling in the Supreme Court and an appeal to the Environmental Court are still pending, so it is mathematically impossible for the Dominga project to complete its processing in the discounts of the paralyzed Piñera government; so its future depends on Sichel’s victory; which implies saying that its chances are rather modest and illusory, but that is another matter.

Since August 2014, when the Penta case broke out, with the starring role of Carlos Alberto Délano, and the participation of Piñera’s companies behind the scenes, information about the incestuous marriage between politics and business saturated the media, scandalized Chileans; degraded to levels not sufficiently studied the prestige of the so-called political class, constituted by the two majority coalitions of the neoliberal republic, and was at the origin of the popular indignation that manifested itself on October 18, 2019.

However, soon after, the same characters appear, entangled in a similar plot to impose a large-scale extractivist project, which will not only destroy a unique ecosystem in the world, of great scenic beauty, but will ruin local communities, in the name of progress, sources of work and economic growth, with their usual subterfuges to cover up the over-profit of the owners of the projects.

It is as if they have not learned anything in these last five years; or maybe they did learn – in fact, Délano graduated with a degree in ethics – but greed is stronger.

Global scandal

The qualitative difference is that this time they were caught with their fingers in the till, on the basis of abundant documentary evidence. Piñera, Délano and Co. did not count on the investigation of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, ICIJ, which had LaBot and CIPER in charge of the Chilean chapter, and they were surely surprised, on Sunday, October 3, to find that the Dominga case was now global news.

That is to say, not only Dominga, because it is one glaring example, but includes hundreds of cases of tax evasion in tax havens, which in addition to Piñera, have two other Latin American presidents in office -Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador; and Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic – in the global spotlight of corruption, as well as 35 former presidents, 336 politicians, 130 billionaires from 90 countries and numerous sports and show business figures, such as “Pep” Guardiola, coach of Manchester City soccer club and the Colombian singer Shakira, among others.

The news is still unfolding, because the disclosures were only the first barrage. Since it was world news, neither the media system nor the political class could ignore it.

So what we are witnessing is the usual comedy of hypocrisy, in which the former lends its spaces to the latter to divert attention. For a start, the press office of the presidency held the position that Piñera had no idea about the process of selling the Dominga project,

“The president has not been involved in the management of any company for more than 12 years, before assuming his first presidency.” At this point, one would expect a modicum of creativity.

However, on this occasion the evidence is so undeniable that there are many analysts, “experts”, opinion makers of various stripes and even disguised spokespersons of the ruling party who seriously wonder if Piñera will manage to finish his term in office.

In what really matters -because Piñera is a dead man walking- the Dominga project will only see the light of day when frogs grow hair.

Source: Alainet