Fact Check: Argentina

937 days, 15 hours, 37 minutes ago


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Digging Deeper into the Baez Money Trail


Yesterday, ATFA posted a map highlighting the flow of suspicious funds by shell companies and bank accounts linked to Argentine construction magnate Lazaro Baez.  The Wall Street Journal has written about the Baez network and his possible role in fueling the rise of President Kirchner’s wealth.

English Trail Pic

En Español 

Our map shows the flow of funds, based on public sources and news reports, making a journey from Argentina, through the Bahamas, to European accounts owned by entities in the Seychelles, back to Argentina and ultimately to Florida to be converted into real estate.

We thought it was important to share with our readers some of the source material that we’ve been digging up on all of this.  To that end, here’s a tour of the Baez money trail:

 – In his interview with Jorge Lanata and Nicolás Wiñazki, former Báez money launderer Federico Elaskar said that the money he flew out of the country subsequently traveled to shell companies in Belize, Panama, and the British Virgin Islands. While not mentioned explicitly by Elaskar, the role of Uruguay in facilitating the movement of illicit Argentine assets, including cases that implicate Báez, is well established.

 – Báez’s ties to the Bahamas, and in particular Macro Bank (the local subsidiary of Banco Macro, previously known as Sud Bank), are established via no less than three links. First, the money he allegedly moved to Liechtenstein, where it sat in the custody of the front company Trade24, arrived via Sud Bank. And two alleged Báez conspirators—Carlos Adrián Calvo López and Fabián Rossi—reportedly both worked in the Bahamas while also laundering for Báez.

 – Many Argentine-owned Bahamian banks have additional ties to Argentine corruption cases. One recent example is the alleged defrauding of Have Result Investments Ltd., a Hong Kong-based energy fund that in 2011 accused various Argentine partners of using a Sud Bank account to divert payments made for hydrocarbon concessions. In the 1990s, the Bahamian Federal Bank played a fundamental role in alleged corruption schemes by Raúl Moneta, a banker closely tied to the government of then-President Carlos Menem. Similar examples linking the Bahamas to Argentine corruption abound.

 – Several Nevada LLCs implicated in the Báez scandal have been used to stash real assets in Argentina and other South American countries. Three of the most prominent examples are Eyden Group LLC, which owned property in the Torres Renoir and the adjacent Terrazas del Yacht; Huston Management LLC, a stake of the Argentine investment firm Continental Urbana; and Jaguar Capital LLC, which is implicated in a pair of recent land deals in Uruguay with a firm linked via media accounts to Báez.

 – Báez’s banking at Lobard Odier and J. Safra Bank has been documented by Argentine and Swiss authorities, as well as in the Argentine media. Additional accounts linked to Báez and his confederates have been found at the Swiss banks AIG Private Bank, Pictet CIE, and Schroder & Co.

 – Moreover, at least seven of the Nevada firms highlighted in the Campagnoli Dictamen of May 2013 as playing a role in the Báez network also have subsidiaries in Switzerland. It is not implausible that these firms—which are based in Lugano, Switzerland, just a couple miles from Báez front company Helvetic Services Group—are also managing money in Swiss bank accounts.

 – Báez transferred $65 million from accounts in Switzerland to Argentina in 2012 and 2013 through the sale of Argentine sovereign bonds on the open market. Báez did so via Helvetic Services Group, the titular owner of the bonds, but the proceeds of the sale were subsequently deposited into an account of Austral Construcciones, the flagship company of the Báez empire. The primary brokerage that carried out the trades on Helvetic’s (and Báez’s) behalf was Buenos Aires-based Financial Net Sociedad de Bolsa.

 – Within weeks of executing the bond sales that allegedly helped Báez move $65 million of laundered money into Argentina, three executives at Financial Net began snapping up condos in Palm Beach County and Miami. They acquired at least 11 properties through Florida-registered LLCs that appear to have been created for the express purpose of acquiring the properties. None of the Financial Net executives had any prior presence in Florida; their trades on Báez’s behalf, and the proceeds derived from them, appear to have precipitated the condo purchases.

To listen to yesterday’s ATFA conference call with Chairman Robert Shapiro and Dennis Hranitsky, attorney for ATFA member NML, click here.