Friday, January 21

A businessman of the vaccines against COVID-19 in Spain managed his assets with ‘offshore’ companies

Hugo Sigman and Marcelo Figueiras are large Argentine businessmen in the pharmaceutical industry, whose companies have a presence in many countries around the world and have produced COVID-19 vaccines in recent months. Both resorted to offshore structures to make investments abroad and plan inheritances, according to Pandora Papers documents analyzed by the Argentine team of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that integrates elDiarioAR, the sister newspaper of in Argentina, and of which in Spain laSexta and El País are part.

Sigman is the head of Grupo Insud, with a significant presence in Spain and in whose Guadalajara laboratory doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are divided and packaged. In January 2021 he received a visit from the then Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, after the signing of the agreement with AZ. Insud also manufactures in Argentina, through its mAbxience laboratory, the active principle of the drug developed by the University of Oxford, which is then sent to Mexico for packaging. Another laboratory in Sigman’s group is in negotiations with China to produce the Sinopharm vaccine in that South American country. Figueiras chairs Laboratorio Richmond, responsible for the production in Argentina of the Sputnik V vaccine, and is married to María Laura Leguizamón, former senator of the party in the Government.

In both cases, the businessmen declared their relationship with the offshore before the Argentine Federal Administration of Public Revenues (AFIP) and the Treasury of Spain. Both Figueiras and Sigman showed their tax affidavits at the request of the Argentine ICIJ team.

Figueiras and his wife are listed as directors of a Belizean company that was used for real estate investments in the state of Florida, (USA) but the shares of the company are 100% of the businessman, according to their affidavit.

Sigman chose Panama to manage the investment portfolio of its pharmaceutical holding, Grupo Insud GmbH. The company managed at least 120 million dollars of its flagship during three years, explained a spokesman before the consultation of this newspaper. In addition, he formed a foundation offshore to plan the inheritance of his pharmaceutical empire, an operation that he later canceled together with his wife and partner, the businesswoman and scientist Silvia Gold, co-founder of the holding company. Through the foundation, the couple collected dividends of more than 75 million euros in 2015.

Gold and Sigman were the sixth richest in Argentina in 2020, according to the Forbes magazine ranking, with a fortune of 2 billion dollars. Last year, the couple gave up the group’s shares to their three children, current shareholders of Grupo Insud, as explained by a company spokesperson.

Sigman, in Panama

The movements offshore Sigmans detected in Pandora Papers began on October 25, 2006. Through the services of the Alcogal law firm, the businessman established the company Kep SA in Panama, with an initial capital of $ 50,000. As shareholders, there are two companies: Kevilmare Holding GmbH and Faro Investments GmbH.

Kevilmare Holding GmbH is the “mother” of the Sigman group of companies, which operates in 50 countries through 150 companies. In 2020 it changed its name to Grupo Insud GmbH and is the central company for the holding company worldwide. Its only shareholders were Sigman and his wife, Silvia Gold, until in September 2020 they gave their entire stake to their three children, according to a public deed made in Spain.

Kevilmare is based in Austria, a country that provides administrative and tax facilities. There, the group has offices and the headquarters of the activities of trading of the group, informed a spokesman before the consultation. The productive activity, on the other hand, is carried out in other countries, especially Argentina and Spain.

Faro Investments GmbH was also based in Vienna and had Sigman and Gold as sole shareholders. There is little information about this society. “That company does not play any role in the group today because it was liquidated in 2009”, they limited themselves to saying from the Insud Group.

Together, Kelvimare Holding and Faro Investments were listed as shareholders of the Panamanian Kep SA. Consulted by the Argentine team of ICIJ, from the Sigman environment they indicated that Kep SA “was created with the objective of managing the liquid investments of the holding company” and that these movements were “duly declared before the Argentine tax authorities”. “He managed investments for about 120 million dollars,” they responded from Insud. “It included liquid financial assets, such as mutual funds, listed shares and deposits,” they added.

According to Pandora Papers documents, Kep SA took a turn in 2008, when Sigman decided to issue 120,774,384 of new shares of one dollar each, which were divided equally between Kevilmare Holding GmbH and Faro Investments GmbH. This operation was carried out to inject the 120 million dollars into Panamanian society. “The investments were contributed to the capital of the company through the issuance of shares,” specified from Grupo Insud. On April 3, 2009, Sigman and Gold decided to dissolve Kep SA.

Why did Grupo Insud channel its investments through Central America? “Panama offered an operation model that made it possible to fulfill the aforementioned purpose,” they responded from the holding company.

Inheritance and dividends

In 2010, Sigman and Gold attempted to plan their inheritance through a Panama foundation. That same year, the couple had changed their tax residence from Argentina to Spain.

On February 12, 2010, they established in Panama, through Alcogal, the Davington Foundation hereditary trust. As soon as they registered, they signed an agreement and contributed “irrevocably” the shares of the Austrian Kevilmare Holding GmbH to the foundation, but reserved their life usufruct, according to a document from the Pandora Papers. The intention was that the shares of the group would remain in the name of the trust so that their children would inherit them through this structure, after the death of both parents.

However, the marriage backed down. “Davington Foundation never fulfilled its hereditary purpose, so it was liquidated in 2019. The shares of Kevilmare Holding GmbH were always declared by Hugo Sigman and Silvia Gold before the Spanish tax authorities,” they said from Grupo Insud.

Even so, the Panamanian foundation registered millionaire movements. A document dated November 20, 2015 stated: “The foundation has received dividends from Kevilmare Holding GmbH, an Austrian company. It is up to the foundation to make available to both beneficial owners – Sigman and Gold – the dividends that belong to them, amounting to the sum of 75,197,947 euros “. The letter ordered the Davington Foundation to credit the funds “to both of their personal accounts.”

“The 75 million euros that Sigman and Gold received in 2015 came entirely from Kevilmare Holding GmbH. Both declared and paid taxes for this amount both in Argentina and in Spain”, they assured in the Insud Group.

Properties of Figueiras

The Richmond owner chose a company based in Belize, in Central America, to channel real estate investments. Forsett Ventures Corp. was registered on April 13, 2017.

Both Figueiras and Leguizamón appeared in the papers as directors of that company offshore to carry out real estate investments in the United States and reduce the associated legal risks. “We used that company to buy three apartments in Miami; one we used and the other two we acquired to rent,” said Figueiras to the ICIJ inquiry, which could not independently verify whether Leguizamón, as a former national senator and former official, was identified by the managers as a politically exposed person (PEP).

According to Figueiras, his intention was to register everything in his name. “But the same real estate operators recommended us to put everything in the name of a company to avoid lawsuits if a problem arises with a rental.” Those lawyers were in charge of contacting the Cititrust firm to place the three Miami properties under the control of a firm offshore.

As corroborated by ICIJ, Forsett Ventures Corp was declared by Figueiras before the AFIP (the Argentine tax agency) and his wife also declared it before the Anticorruption Office (OA) in the reserved file where the former senator reported the assets on behalf of her husband. Figueiras provided all the documentation.

Figueiras explained that they resorted to that society offshore to order the family patrimony and thus avoid the high aliquots of the inheritance tax in the United States. “It is all in the tax affidavit that I presented to the AFIP, and it was even computed when paying the wealth tax,” he said.