Macri forgives billions of pesos to his family’s company SOCMA
Investigation opened into why government agreed to cancel billions of pesos of debt owed by President’s father’s company
The revelation that Mauricio Macri’s administration settled a decade-plus debt dispute with his family’s company SOCMA, forgiving it billions of pesos of debt, caused widespread condemnation from opposition lawmakers and even a few allies. The lead prosecutor of the Public Administration Investigation (PIA), Sergio Rodríguez, opened an investigation yesterday, accepting a request submitted by the Commercial Chamber prosecutor Gabriela Boquin, who had ruled that the agreement reached between the government and Macri’s Correo Argentino private mail company is “abusive” and could harm state finances. Rodríguez asked that he be given all the available documentation at hand to open an internal investigation. Once the investigation is finished, he will decide whether to request a criminal investigation.
The Let’s Change administration and Correo Argentino — controlled by Socma Americana SA, which is owned by Macri’s family — signed an agreement in the middle of 2016 over a 292-million-peso debt that the company has owed to the state since 2001. This means the Macri family would only have to pay 1.18 percent of the debt it owes the government, after the privatization of Correo Argentino SA in 1997. Prosecutor Boquín ruled that the proposal made by Correo Argentino SA and accepted by the government should be rejected because it would immediately cancel four billlion pesos in debt owed to the government and more than 70 billion pesos by 2033, according to calculations made by the DAFI economic and financial investigations support unit of the Attorney General’s office.
Gov’t on the defence
Several officials forming part of Macri’s administration immediately came out in defence of the deal and denied that any wrongdoing was done. One of those was the Communications Ministry Director of Judicial Affairs Juan Mocoroa. “Here there isn’t any cancellation or writeoff of debt,” said the official after learning of the prosecutor’s ruling in an interview with Nacional and El Mundo radio. Mocoroa claimed that the agreement was made “under total transparency” in public hearings, at the same time arguing that “there didn’t exist conflict of interests,” even though it was the President’s father’s debt that is being forgiven.
When asked if he didn’t think that this would generate controversy since the state for 15 years had rejected proposals by Correo Argentino to forgive its debt, yet after seven months into Macri’s administration they had reached an accord, he responded: “What should be called to attention is that for 15 years the state didn’t fix this issue, because the national state voided all the proposals that the company made.”
Mocoroa then said that they were actually gaining money from this agreement, and would receive 600 million pesos that would be used for public works projects, which Correo Argentino would pay in 15 years.
“The inaccurate numbers which the communication media are referencing are linked to a judicial error or malice ... we are forgiving not even one bill to Macri, not even the interest,” he concluded.
However, not all lawmakers, including those that had been friendly with Macri such as Progressive Lawmaker Margarita Stolbizer, were convinced by the Let’s Change administration’s arguments. Stolbizer criticised Macri’s government for favouring business with economic groups that it had links to.
“It’s not the sum or the damage calculated (in reference to 70,000 billion pesos), but the fact that a proposal that accepted a payment with debt writeoffs, which could threaten the state’s finances and shows a conflict of interest that directly affects the family members of public officials,” she said.
Stolbizer stressed that it was hypocritical for Macri’s government to have made such a scandolous agreement and that the case was very similar to the previous Victory Front (FpV) administration, which Let’s Change had promised to change.
“You can’t only be something, but you must also appear to be it. The government that came to power promoting changes and demanding more institutionality can’t repeat conducts that favoured businesses and interests of economic groups that it was linked to in the past,” Stolbizer concluded. Following the same line, Renewal Front lawmaker Graciela Camaño questioned how it seemed that Macri’s family had gained power so they could resolve the problems of the Macri family. “This is a scandal like the bags of Kirchnerite (José) López,” in reference to the ex-Public Works Secretary José Francisco López, who was arrested when he attempted to hide bags full of dollars and jewels in a convent.
“There exists impunity with issues involving the state and the presidential family, businessmen always seem to do business with themselves,” added the lawmaker in a press release.
On the other hand, Parlasur lawmaker and former Defence Minister Agustín Rossi said that the agreement between the government and Correo Argentino SA reminded him of a previous deal done in 1982, when the last military dictatorship nationalised the debt of hundreds of companies, which included several owned by the Macri family.
Meanwhile, opposition Victory Front (FpV) submitted several criminal complaints against the President, his father Franco Macri, Communications Minister Oscar Aguad and lawyer Juan Carlos Mocoroa, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña and the President of Boca Juniors Daniel Angelici. “The national state accepted a proposal, which in reality, cancels a Correo Argentino’s debt. With one addition, it signifies cancelling the president’s family’s debt,” states the criminal complaint submitted by the FPV lawmakers. The lawsuit is signed by Héctor Recalde, Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro, Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque, and two leaders of the Nuevo Encuentro group affiliated with the FpV, Martín Sabbatella and Gabriela Cerruti.