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Panama Papers: Communist Cuban Officials Also Owned Offshore Firms

By: Guest Contributor - May 18, 2016, 5:22 pm
Panama Papers Cuba
The Panama Papers reveal that a lawyer was a senior legal advisor and intermediary in more than 20 offshore companies with commercial ties in Cuba. (Pixabay)

By Cuban Journalists

EspañolFurther developments in the Panama Papers reveal that officials of the Communist Party of Cuba used a Swiss lawyer to set up offshore companies to assist with their global businesses.

Over 11 million documents leaked from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama have revealed the offshore activities of heads of state, government officials, and celebrities around the world — and some of those figures happen to be from Cuba, where the law does not include any specific legislation on offshore activities.

Albert-Louis Dupont Willemin, a Swiss lawyer and broker for more than 20 offshore companies, was linked to Cuba businesses.

Willemin also serves as honorary consul of Guatemala in Geneva. He created two offshore companies located in the British Virgin Islands through Mossack Fonseca: Curtdale Investments Limited and Ardpoint Company Inc.

Willemin declined to comment for this story.

Hernán Aguilar Parra, a member of the National Assembly of People’s Power, appeared in the Panama documents as a director for both companies. Parra stopped being a member of the Assembly in November 2015, one year after the 2014 general elections.

The tax havens are associated with the Business Group Tabacuba, a state-owned tobacco company, for which Parra also served as director until 2015.

“Members (of the Cuban Assembly) have restrictions,” a spokesman for the Center for Legal Information Cubalex said. “The role of congressman is ad honorem and cannot be used for personal gain … It wouldn’t be very well received if a state official, taking advantage of the function of his office, established trade relations with private companies.”

The former production manager of Tabacuba, Inocente Osvaldo Encarnacion, was also linked to the offshore Ardpoint Company Inc.

During a telephone interview, he confirmed Encarnacion was a shareholder of a company, but declined to name which one. He also declined to comment on its links with Ardpoint.

Mossack Fonseca’s records were obtained by the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with journalists from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Offshore Interests

Though the filtered data doesn’t indicate any specific crime or violation of the law, it does offer an intriguing perspective on relationship networks between Cuba and the outside world.

Pan American Corporation, based in Havana, is the entity responsible for providing Mossack Fonseca services to Cuban companies. According to the documents, the Cuban lawyer Punishable Katiuska Moreno has been the company’s legal representative.

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In a brief telephone interview, Moreno said she “currently” has no links with Mossack Fonseca nor Pan American Corporation.

Moreno’s name appeared in the Panama Papers in connection with four offshore companies: Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd, Mercaria Trading, Caribbean Sugar Trader and Sanford Financial Management. Moreno appears as actual beneficiary, while Willemin appears as director.

Through Mossack Fonseca, Willemin founded Racuza S.A., a company that offers computers, peripherals, and software for the Cuban market.

The General Director of Foreign Investment of the Ministry of Foreign Trade Déborah Rivas Saavedra is also named in the Panama Papers as director of Racuza. She also appears as director of Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd and Caribbean Sugar Trader.

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After two days of trying to reach out to Saavedra, her office forwarded the information requests to Roberto Berrier Castro, Director of the Center for the Promotion of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment. However, Berrier claimed that he had no information on the matter.

Among the deputy directors of Racuza are José Fernandez de Cossio, former Cuban Ambassador to Japan and Porfirio Medero Paiva and Hermes Vaillant, two Cuban lawyers working for Pan American. Paiva, Cossio, and Vaillant also appear as directors of Miramar Investment Corporation Ltd and Caribbean Sugar Trader. It was not possible to locate any of them for comment.

Legal agreements with the Cuban government

Legal Consulting International (CJI) is a Cuban law firm that provides legal assistance and advice to both individuals and businesses.

It is also a legal partner of Mossack Fonseca. The company became the main agent between the Cuban government and Mossack Fonseca.

When contacted, CJI referred information requests to lawyer René de Jesus Burguet Rodríguez, whose name also appears in an email exchange between CJI and Mossack Fonseca.

No response was received at the time of publication. The filtered data includes other links between officials and offshore companies.

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The Union Research and Water Projects is a consulting service of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), the government agency responsible for water networks and sewage on the island.

The union appears as a shareholder in Hydraulic Technology, an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands and created through Pan American Corporation. The company owned a trading company called Technical Hydraulic INRH S.A., which operated until 2015, when it was liquidated.

CHI was responsible, according to a contract, for representing the legal affairs of offshore companies Hydraulic Technical S.A., which is managed by Mossack Fonseca.

The Panama Papers revealed that Wilfredo Leyva Armesto, also known as William Leyva, is the director of Hydraulic Technique. Leyva could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the Cuban parliament said he could not answer any questions related to the Panama Papers.

This work is a collaboration between the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Independent Cuban Journalists, CubaNet, and Diario de Cuba.