Macri says he has nothing to hide after prosecutor calls for investigation into his links to an offshore company

Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri
Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, is among scores of international politicians and business figures named in the leak of Mossack Fonseca documents. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

The Argentinian president, Mauricio Macri will appear before a judge on Friday to refute allegations that he secretly benefited from an offshore company named in the Panama Papers.

Prosecutors have called for an investigation of his ties with Bahamas-based company, Fleg Trading, which were revealed by the leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Macri – who was listed as a director of Fleg Trading from 1998 until 2009 – did not mention the company in his 2007 financial declaration, when he became mayor of Buenos Aires, or in his 2015 declaration when he became president.

In a televised address on Thursday, the president said he was calm. “I know there are people who are concerned about the accusations,” he told the nation. “I have acted in accordance with the law, I have told the truth and I have nothing to hide.”

He said he was not legally obliged to declare his connection because he never had a stake in the company nor received any income.

Fleg Trading was created by his father – an Italian-born business tycoon – to make investments in Brazil. It is now closed.

Macri said he would ask a court to certify his declaration of assets in order to clear up any doubts. To prevent conflict of interest, he also promised to put his assets in a blind trust.

Critics have demanded a more detailed explanation of his involement with Fleg Trading and his alleged connection with another offshore company, Kagemusha SA, registered in Panama.

“All these companies are created as vehicles to launder assets, evade tax or commit other crimes,” lawmaker Norman Dario Martinez noted in a complaint filed earlier this week. “They are registered in tax havens like the Bahamas to protect the financial secrets of directors and shareholders, and hide their operations.”

State prosecutor Federico Delgado asked the judiciary on Thursday to investigate if Macri’s failure to declare his connection with the offshore company meant he had “maliciously failed to complete his tax declaration”, a crime which carries a sentence of 15 days to two years.

Judge Sebastián Casanello must now decide if there is sufficient evidence to open a probe.

Among those likely to testify are the tax authority and anti-corruption office.

Macri’s appearance in the Panama Papers and the way his administration has handled the matter has cast some doubt over his 2015 campaign pledge to fight corruption.

The head of the Argentinian anti-corruption office, Laura Alonso, a member of Macri’s party, swiftly defended the president after the leak emerged, saying that creating a company in a tax haven was not a crime.

Opposition lawmakers called for her resignation on the grounds that her job was to root out corruption, not defend the president.

[Source:- Gurdian]