Fact Check: Argentina

958 days, 18 hours, 31 minutes ago


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Diego Marynberg’s U.S. Empire

The business favors given by Economy Minister Axel Kicillof to Argentine financier Diego Marynberg have raised curiosity.   We have looked into Diego’s mysterious US$200 million financial maneuver with the Central Bank of Argentina (BCRA) under orders from the Economy Ministry of Axel Kicillof, and uncovered Marynberg’s ties to investigations in Argentina, which might be why he now hangs his hat in New York.  That is where the Marynberg money trail gets even more interesting.

After leaving Argentina, Marynberg started businesses and purchased properties, typically through shell companies, in New York, Baltimore, and Miami. Many of his firms continue in operation today, and his business network has extended to Venezuela, Uruguay, and Panama.  Here is a glimpse of the Marynberg U.S. empire:

 – Marynberg has worked at East River Management and Financial Services International since late 2001. Both firms appear to belong to him. East River Management is based out of an apartment on Central Park South, a property that the company purchased in 2006 for just over US$500,000. Commercial databases list this property as a residence of Diego Marynberg, and it is the listed address for other companies he owns. Independent real estate websites estimate the property’s value at US$1.1 million.

 – Marynberg and his family also appear to own or rent two properties in the New York City borough of Brooklyn: a three-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn Heights, which has an estimated value of US$1.5 million, and a second apartment in Brooklyn.

 – Latam Securities, Marynberg’s vehicle for allegedly participating in deals facilitated by MECON located in New York. Marynberg started Latam Securities in 2012. It appears to have been set up as a vehicle for Marynberg’s investment into Argentine bonds: there is no record of the firm’s existence or business operations prior to the recent news reports linking Marynberg to Kicillof.

– Marynberg’s FINRA filings indicate that he dedicates 10 hours a week to a company called Financial Services International as a manager. It is not clear if he works out of the Annapolis, Maryland, office, but he owns a luxury apartment on Harborview Drive in Baltimore, Maryland. Marynberg purchased the property in 2011 from his Financial Services International colleague Roberto Pichard for US$330,000. Independent websites place the value of the three-bedroom high-rise condo, which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay, at US$475,000.

– Commercial databases indicate that Marynberg owns an additional property at in Miami Beach. The apartment was purchased by a Miami-based shell company called Renton Mercantile, Inc for US$625,000 in 2002. On the deeds formalizing the acquisition of his Baltimore property, Marynberg listed this Miami address as his own. Independent real estate websites estimate the condo’s value at US$1.04 million. The board of Renton Mercantile is composed of three Panamanian lawyers and Pichard. Renton Mercantil is also registered in the tax haven of Panama, though Pichard is listed as an officer only in Florida, in the United States.

All of this represents a huge expansion of wealth, with little known income to justify it, and coming in the years after Marynberg was linked to the collapse of three Argentine banks owned by his wife’s family, and the movement of US$200,000 of a client’s money, which a prosecutor said appeared to involve transactions orchestrated by Marynberg.

Latam Securities

At the epicenter of it all is Latam Securities.  Latam Securities’ employees include Jorge Pepa, an Argentine investment banker with ties to Minister Kicillof and his team at the Economy Ministry. Pepa started working for Latam in February 2014. Pepa is the brother-in-law of Nacho Figueras, an Argentine polo player and Ralph Lauren model. Pepa’s brother has also played for the same polo team as Figueras.

Pepa and Figueras have attended the same events in New York, including charity polo games set up by Help Argentina, a US aid organization that channels money to the poor in Argentina. The charity was co-founded by Emilio Ocampo, of Arcadia Advisors, and the polo events have been sponsored by BGC Partners, a US firm that was later accused of participating in the fraudulent bond trades in the Otkritie case – which Diego was also briefly linked to.

Figueras has a longtime business and sporting relationship with Neil Hirsch, the founder of Telerate. Hirsch’s former company Telerate made hundreds of millions during the 1970s and 1980s while serving as a subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage that would later turn into BGC, which assisted on the fraudulent trades in the Otkritie case.

Latam Securities’ chief compliance officer, Jonathan Jeffrey Shepland, has worked for five small firms in New York since 1996, two of which were expelled from FINRA. The regulatory organization revoked the license of Prestige Financial Center Inc. in 2011, after the SEC alleged that the firm had engaged in a fraudulent scheme that generated $1.3 million in profits for a secret firm account.

Another of Shepland’s firms, A.B. Watley, Inc., received a long list of sanctions before being expelled in 2006 after the SEC discovered it was illegally obtaining and using confidential information to make trades. Shepland started work at Latam in January 2014, almost a year after he left his previous position.

Howard Spindel, the financial and operations principal at Latam Securities, has worked in the securities industry for 32 years, and is currently registered with 35 firms. His main firm appears to be Integrated Investment Solutions LLC, and he acts as a consultant or compliance officer-for-hire for other firms. He joined Latam Securities in February 2014.

When Axel Kicillof’s Economy Ministry chose Latam Securities as the favored party in aUS$200 million financial maneuver earlier this year, he was directly linking the Kirchner government with this cast of characters, with Diego Marynberg at its center.  Why?