QCOSTARICA (Semanario Universidad) – The new international filtering of documents known as “Pandora Papers” includes three renowned Costa Rican businessmen. This is stated in a query sent by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to the Panamanian law firm Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), since last September 7.
The ICIJ query mentions two companies domiciled in Panama of the former Minister of Production during the second government of Oscar Arias, piñero (pineapple) businessman Alfredo Volio Pérez; two companies linked to the president of Deportivo Saprissa, Juan Carlos Rojas Callán; and the investment fund Mesoamérica Partners MP S.A., currently chaired by Luis Javier Castro Lachner.
In an interview with this weekly, Volio Pérez explained the origin of the two companies on which ICIJ consulted him along with 600 other journalists from international media and whose information began to be published on October 3.
“In the case of Northern Fields S.A., it was a company that was opened and closed. It never operated and never had any operation of any kind. In the case of Upala Investments S.A., it was a company that we created as a shareholder, that is, the owner of Upala Agrícola S.A. in Costa Rica. This is a known fact and reported as such in the Registry of Transparency and Final Beneficiaries of the Central Bank of Costa Rica. The function of that company was only to hold shares,” said Volio Pérez in an interview, the details of which can be read further down this page.
“This happens with many companies, the Panamanian opportunity offers a series of facilities and comforts. The creation of companies is extremely fast. In many cases, there are firms that already have partnerships and so on. They are bought and formed, and that’s it,” he also explained.
Volio Pérez’s father, Alfredo Volio Escalante, was also one of the named in the “Panama Papers,” a previous ICIJ investigation focused on the operations of the Mossack Fonseca law firm. Volio Pérez rejected that the actions of his father were linked to his own businesses or positions (he presided over the directive of the Banco Nacional) and these details can be read in the note Avoid taxes without dissimulation, the intention of a Costa Rican businessman, from 2016.
Until this October 4, the media that participated in the investigation “Pandora Papers” has revealed information on ghost companies and ‘offshore’, linked to recognized figures and companies, which appear domiciled in Panama, the US state of South Dakota, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands (these last two territories are known tax havens that are used to evade tax payments).
A publication of the Spanish newspaper El País affirms that the firm “Alcogal set up opaque companies for 160 politicians and public officials, including some accused of looting the coffers of their countries.”
An attempt was made to contact the businessmen Rojas Callán and Castro Lachner on their cell phones; however, upon publication of this article, it was not possible to contact them to receive their version of the information reported.
In Panama, the Alcogal law firm maintains an online website with answers about Pandora’s Papers cases.
“In none of the cases mentioned by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) did we find evidence of non-compliance. In fact, since our foundation (1985), we have never been part of any legal process in the jurisdictions where we work (…) ALCOGAL is committed to strict compliance with its obligations. We reject in a frontal way the conjectures and insinuations of failures in Regulatory Compliance; For 35 years we have been subject to supervision by regulatory entities in different jurisdictions, with flawless results,” the statement said.
The Argentine newspaper Pagina12, in a publication about the appearance of the family of former president Mauricio Macri in Pandora Papers, points out that “resorting to an offshore company or opening a bank account in a tax haven is not, in itself, an illicit activity” . On the other hand, it includes statements from the Inspector General of Justice who details that “It is impossible, from every point of view, for offshore companies to have a lawful purpose. By definition, they are an illicit business, something contrary to the law. It is an instrument for crime, for evasion, fundamentally for capital flight”.
Former minister created a pineapple holder in Upala in Panama
The ICIJ found two companies related to Alfredo Volio Pérez: Upala Investments S.A. and Northern Fields S.A. According to the communication sent to Alcogal in early September. Volio is mentioned as “former Minister of Economy and Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica, he appeared as an official between 2008 and 2013” of both companies. The businessman pointed out in conversation with the UNIVERSITY that “having been a Minister, many years ago, is the fact that generates news morbidity, that’s all.”
According to Volio, Upala Investments S.A. is the holding company of the shares of the pineapple Upala Agrícola S.A.
“The ownership of the shares of any company, in this case of Costa Rica, can be anywhere in the world,” said the businessman.
Regarding Upala Agrícola S.A., he pointed out that it is “a Costa Rican company that complies with, absolutely, all its tax, fiscal, municipal, social security obligations, and is absolutely and completely up to date in all its obligations.”
Almost a thousand jobs are created, permanently, in the rural area of Upala,” said Volio.
This weekly confirmed, with the databases of the CCSS and the Ministry of Finance, that Upala Agrícola does not have delinquencies.
The businessman confirmed that the company “only operates here in Upala, we do not have operations anywhere else in the world.”
According to Volio, Northern Fields never had operations.
“Several partners were Chilean, others from the United States, so the partnership was made in the Panamanian square,” answered Volio Pérez on the subject.
According to a review in the National Registry, this weekly found that the businessman also appears in 13 other Costa Rican companies. Among them are the National Chamber of Agriculture and Agroindustry (as Vocal 5) and the National Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (vice president and legal representative).
President of Saprissa linked to two Alcogal companies
According to the ICIJ, the president of Deportivo Saprissa, Juan Carlos Rojas Callán, is on the board of directors of Mesoamérica Marble Ltda. Which is registered in the British Virgin Islands. The query about that company is listed after another question about the Mesoamerica investment fund (which can be read later).
ICIJ asked the Alcogal law firm what was the object of creation of Mesoamérica Marble and if it is still active.
Along the same lines, he wonders about the creation of the “White Rock Ventures offshore company, on April 22, 2010, in Panama” in which Rojas Callán also appears as director. ICIJ states that “the objective of this offshore company was to conduct business for an investment company” and information was requested on whether it is still active and the type of business that was developed.
National Registry of Costa Rica lists Rojas Callán as a participant in 41 companies.
Among others, he appears as member 2 in the companies Aseguradora Sagicor Costa Rica S.A. and Grupo Sagicor GS, S.A., both linked to policies marketed by Banco Promérica.
Rojas Callán is also listed as treasurer of the Distribuidora Dipo S.A. and member 1 of the Espressivo Theater Association (of this society, UNIVERSIDAD has previously published about his relationship with businessman Steve Aronson, former owner of Grupo Britt; Rojas Callán also previously participated as director of that coffee company).
Mesoamerica singled out for creating more than 40 offshore companies
ICIJ’s consultation with the Alcogal law firm also includes the Mesoamerica investment fund whose presidency belongs to businessman Luis Javier Castro Lachner. Mesoamerica would have “opened more than 40 offshore companies using Alcogal’s services” and the journalistic consortium asked about the activity of these companies, in addition to whether “clients who create offshore companies must show Alcogal evidence that they are informing their tax entities nationals in this regard ”.
During 2020, this weekly reported that Castro Lachner appears as president emeritus of the business association Alianza Empresarial para el Desarrollo (AED), a repeated collaborator of the Government of President Carlos Alvarado.
Castro Lachner also fought for the presidency of the Costa Rican Union of Business Chambers (Uccaep) last year.
By December 2020, Castro Lachner appeared as the founder of the Demo Lab association, a political initiative without a party flag but linked to the journalist and now a candidate for deputy Pilar Cisneros, as well as the founder of the Citizen Action Party, Ottón Solís. In Demo Lab, this weekly also confirmed the participation of businessman Steve Aronson, mentioned above because of his business relationship with Saprissista Rojas Callán.
For its part, the National Registry lists Castro Lachner as a member of 24 societies.
In addition to Mesoamerica, among others, he appears as a member and municipal representative in the Fundación Arias para la Paz y el Progreso Humano societies; as secretary and municipal representative in the Fundación Parque La Libertad; and vice president 2 of the advertising company IMC Interamericana Medios de Comunicación.
What are “Pandora Papers”?
The “Pandora Papers” investigation uses the filtering of around 11.9 million documents from financial services companies around the world, according to information published by international agencies.
The ICIJ is the international entity that also coordinated a leak of legal and fiscal documents in 2016, known as “Panama Papers” or “Panama Papers”.
In the recent investigation, three presidents stand out among those singled out for making use of tax havens to hide their wealth and evade taxes in their countries of origin.
Until now, the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, who received coverage from the CIPER and LaBot media, has been mentioned as cases; This coverage reveals the sale of Minera Dominga to businessman Carlos Alberto Délano. The transactions occurred in the British Virgin Islands.
The investigation also points to the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, a case that was published by Noticias SIN.
The third president is that of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso. This case was published in the El Universo medium. It is noted that he controlled 14 offshore companies, the majority based in Panama, and closed them after a law was issued in Panama that prohibits presidential candidates from having companies in tax havens.
11 former Latin American presidents are also part of the leak coordinated by the ICIJ. They are the Panamanians Juan Carlos Varela, Ricardo Martinelli and Ernesto Pérez Balladares; the Colombians César Gaviria and Andrés Pastrana; the Peruvian Pedro Pablo Kuczynski; the Honduran Porfirio Lobo and the Paraguayan Horacio Cartes.
In Costa Rica, the investigation is published by Costa Rica Media, where the report Dos Pinos, three offshore, cooperative and transnational, was published this past weekend.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Seminaraio Universidad and translated by the Q.