The Chilean Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal investigation against President Sebastián Piñera this Friday. for the sale of mining company Dominga by a company of his children, an operation that appeared in the so-called “Pandora Papers”.
“The national attorney [Jorge Abbott], on today, October 8, decided to open a criminal investigation for the facts associated with what became known as the ‘Pandora Papers’ and which are related to the sale of the mining company Dominga, which was linked to the family of President Piñera,” he said to the press the anti-corruption chief of the Attorney’s Office, Marta Herrera.
Piñera, one of the rulers appearing in the Pandora Papers investigation, denied on Monday that he had a conflict of interest in selling the miner in 2010 (during his first term) to one of his closest friends.
But Herrera stated that “the national prosecutor made this decision considering that at the time the antecedents could have the character of a bribery crime, with its correlate of bribery, [e] possible tax crimes, issues that will all end up being the object of an investigation”.
He added that due to “the gravity of the facts investigated”, the case will be in charge of a regional prosecutor, Claudia Perivancich, from the region of Valparaíso.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera speaks on Wednesday (6) — Photo: Javier Torres/AFP
The penalty for bribery is five years in prison, said Herrera.
According to an investigation by local newspapers CIPER and LaBot, which are part of the Pandora Papers of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), mining company Dominga was sold to businessman Carlos Alberto Délano, a friend of Piñera, for US$152 million in a deal held in the British Virgin Islands.
The investigation adds that the payment for the operation was made in three installments and contained a controversial clause that made the last payment conditional on “the non-establishment of an environmental protection area over the mining company’s area of operations, as demanded by the environmental groups”.
Piñera’s government, according to the investigation, ended up not protecting the area in which the mine was to be built and, therefore, the third payment was made.
The conservative president said on Monday that he was not aware of this operation, because before his first term (2010-2014) he stepped away from managing his assets.
“The decision of the management of these companies to sell Mineradora Dominga in 2010, which I was not informed, it was precisely to avoid any sign of conflict of interest.“, affirmed Piñera.
“The facts mentioned in this report are not new, they were publicly disclosed by the media in 2017 and were also thoroughly investigated by the Public Ministry and resolved by the courts of justice,” he added.
However, Herrera clarified on Friday that the sale of the mining company was not included in this case closed in 2017, although “it had an advantage related to Mineradora Dominga”, therefore “was not judged”.
“The facts relating to the sale of the mining company are not expressly included in the 2017 resolution,” insisted Herrera.