The Chilean Prosecutor’s Office has reported this Friday of the opening of an ex officio investigation against the country’s president, Sebastián Piñera, after alleged irregularities in the sale in 2010 in the Virgin Islands came to light, with the publication Pandora Papers British for their actions in a mining megaproject. The director of Anticorruption of the National Prosecutor’s Office, Marta Herrera, has assured that “there is a history that could reverse the nature of bribery, with its correlate of bribery, and eventual tax crimes.”
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The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in collaboration with the Chilean media CIPER and LaBot, has revealed that Minera Dominga was sold in 2010 to the businessman and friend of the presidential family Carlos Alberto Délano in a $ 152 million operation carried out partly in the Caribbean tax haven. The payment was supposed to take place in three installments, but the last one was conditional on the area not being declared environmentally protected, despite the fact that the mine threatens a natural reserve with unique penguins, according to the ICIJ. Environmental protection depended on Piñera, who had assumed power for his first term just months before the sale of the project, which is currently approved by a regional environmental court but pending appeals by the Supreme Court.
The main objective of the investigation is to determine if the sale contract actually provided for the controversial clause of the last installment, a matter that was not included in the investigation that the Prosecutor’s Office itself opened in 2017 and that ended up being dismissed. “The contract in English in the British Virgin Islands was not incorporated in the investigation (of 2017), therefore it is a new precedent”, has indicated the prosecutor.
Piñera, who has one of the largest fortunes in Chile and who will leave power in March 2022, reported this week that he disassociated himself from his companies before becoming president “more than 12 years ago” and that the information published -including the controversial clause- it was already known and was investigated in 2017.
According to the president, the sale of the mining company, which commits an investment of 2,500 million dollars and is located 500 kilometers north of the capital, was carried out by his blind trust and that he was neither consulted nor informed “precisely to avoid any hint of conflict of interest “.
The opposition is preparing a constitutional indictment in Parliament (political trial) against Piñera, which could end in his dismissal and disqualification from holding public office.
Prior to the announcement of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Seventh Guarantee Court of Santiago has admitted to processing a complaint against the president filed by the lawyer Luis Mariano Rendón and that has yet to be sent to the Prosecutor’s Office in another independent process.