Two of the five living former presidents of Colombia, the liberal César Gaviria Trujillo (1990-1994) and the conservative Andrés Pastrana Arango (1998-2002), turned to opaque financial companies, according to the Pandora Papers, a global investigation coordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in which EL PAÍS participated and in which the editorial alliance The viewerCONNECTAS He has led the investigation in Colombia.

The lives of both have been intensely linked to politics, even after he left the presidential power. The two ex-presidents knocked on the doors of financial opacity when they had already left the Casa de Nariño. Gaviria formed in 2010 with one of his brothers and other partners a company in Panama with which he controlled a Colombian firm related to the hydrocarbon sector. In the case of former President Pastrana, the investigation shows how the conservative politician was able to keep a society anonymous offshore in Panama and manage part of your family assets from there.

Pastrana, who has had Spanish honorary citizenship since 2018, requested in December 2016, as can be seen from one of the leaked documents, to link the Panamanian company Vanguard Investment Inc. to a bank account in the United States with “liquid financial assets” calculated at 600,000 dollars, even though its authorized capital was only $ 10,000. With the movement, the capital of that account abroad was put in the name of the Panamanian company. That is the first time that Pastrana’s name appears linked to society offshore.

The owner of 100% of the shares of the Panamanian company since 2005 is the Colombian company Salatina Puyana y Cia S. en C, as confirmed by the former president to questions from the ICIJ and the editorial alliance The viewerCONNECTAS. The final beneficiaries of this corporate structure are Andrés Pastrana and his family – his wife, Nohra Puyana. According to the certificates of the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, Salatina Puyana was established in May 2002, just as Pastrana was preparing to leave the presidency.

Andrés Pastrana, during a press conference on October 4, 2016. Fernando Vergara (AP)

Pastrana explained that as of 2016, to comply with a change in Panamanian legislation, “bearer shares had to be converted into registered shares”, which forced him to make the change in Vanguard Investment Inc. Until then, at Under the law in Panama, it was impossible to know the names of the beneficiaries of many companies, including the former president.

The ex-president explained that the objective of these movements abroad was “to make Colombian investments abroad, as recorded in the investment records before the Banco de la República.” “That is to say, the aim was to convert pesos into dollars to internationalize a heritage,” he adds.

In 2016 Pastrana was still very active in politics and became one of the leaders of the No in the plebiscite on the peace accords with the FARC, which was imposed by a very narrow margin in October 2016. After handing over power to Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) was its ambassador to Washington for less than a year in 2005. Since then he has remained an influential force in the Conservative Party.

The tax entities of the United States and Colombia – the IRS and the DIAN, respectively – have developed information agreements and data is transmitted all the time on individuals who have accounts in the United States while being Colombian residents, and vice versa. Companies or transactions offshore They do not in themselves imply any type of illegality in Colombian legislation, although they make it difficult to trace the origin of the money, or to know if its shareholders have adequately declared the actions or resources that correspond to them. Since 2014, Colombia removed Panama from the list of tax havens.

Pastrana assures that Salatina Puyana y Cia S en C. has declared the investment to the Colombian tax authorities, as well as the returns since the Colombian investment was made abroad. Due to the tax reserve, there is no way to access the taxpayer registry in Colombia to contrast these data.

The former president further maintains that “the identity of the directors, dignitaries and beneficiaries of Vanguard Investment Inc. was never concealed,” but their names have only been found now that their request made in 2016 has come to light.

César Gaviria Trujillo is the other former Colombian president to appear in the leaks. The current director of the Liberal Party, to which his political career has always been linked, occupied the House of Nariño from 1990 to 1994. At the end of his term, he was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). He returned to Colombia in 2005, from where he led the traditional political force at different times. Unlike Pastrana, he played a leading role in the defeated campaign for Yes in the 2016 plebiscite for peace.

César Gaviria during a political event in Sogamoso, Colombia, on February 4, 2018.
César Gaviria during a political event in Sogamoso, Colombia, on February 4, 2018. Nicolo Filippo Rosso (Bloomberg)

This is not the first time that the former president has been involved in a leak of documents that link him to opaque companies. Through an investigation by the editorial alliance The viewerCONNECTAS in 2019, it was discovered that it possesses a company in the British Virgin Islands, which in turn is a shareholder of another in Barbados.

According to the documents discovered in the Pandora Papers, Gaviria formed in 2010 together with his brother, Luis Fernando Gaviria, and other partners the Panamanian company MC2 Internacional SA, which became the only shareholder of a Colombian company with the same name. , MC2 SASESP (the last initials indicate that it is a utility company).

The Colombian was established in June 2005 by the brother of the former president, just when Gaviria had just returned to the country after his years in Washington at the head of the OAS. In 2007, the president joined the company, dedicated to natural gas and other fuels businesses.

Over the years, new partners arrived, but César Gaviria remained the majority shareholder. As soon as it was incorporated, the Panamanian company – which only had $ 20,000 in capital – became the only shareholder of the Colombian company, whose nominal value of the shares was more than $ 286,000. The MC2 Colombia website, which in 2011 even internationalized its business in Peru, answers the question of Who we are like this: We are a Colombian company with more than 14 years of experience in the natural gas sector; We provide energy solutions, which are constantly transformed to meet the requirements of the market and our customers.

The former president did not respond to ICIJ questions, but his brother did. Faced with most of the questions, Luis Fernando Gaviria said: “If necessary or convenient, the aforementioned society is the one who must respond to this matter.” When asked if he declared the assets and activities of these companies to the Colombian authorities, he indicated: “The financial and tax information of Colombian citizens is protected by the documentary reserve.”

Pilar Cuartas, María Camila Hernández, Isabela Granados, Camilo Vega Barbosa and Carlos Eduardo Huertas, from the editorial alliance The viewerCONNECTAS, led the investigation of Pandora’s Papers in Colombia

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