Wednesday, July 24, 2024

ARGENTINA | 16-11-2023 14:46

Wind farms graft probe: Audit report finds ‘irregularities’ and big profits for Mauricio Macri, Carlos Tevez

AGN General Auditing Office detects “serious irregularities” in process behind tender that saw group involving Macri family and ex-Boca striker Carlos Tevez win renewable energies bid.

Auditors in Argentina have identified “serious irregularities” in bidding processes for the construction and oversight of wind farms to produce renewable energy during the 2015-2019 Mauricio Macri administration.

Investigators at the AGN General Auditing Office probing alleged insider trading allegations drew the conclusion after investigating the tender of six wind farms in Argentina's south. 

Among the famous names indirectly involved in the probe are the Macri Group, owned and operated by relatives and former business associates of Mauricio Macri, along with one of Argentina's most famous retired football players, Carlos Tevez, and former Boca Juniors coach and player Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Among the observations made by the AGN – which is managed by the opposition – the awarding of different services to firms that had not taken part in previous bidding procedures stood out, as did the payment of “prices higher than established ones,” which led to “inequitable situations,” the expert opinion states.

Previous reporting by Perfil has revealed that after several triangulations, the wind and solar farms ended up in possession of Chinese company Goldwind, a manufacturer of windmills, and Genneia, managed by Darío Lizzano, a businessman linked to Macrismo who purchased Nicolás ‘Nicky’ Caputo’s businesses.

The farms changed hands only one year later, turning a major profit to the Macri Group and Tévez of some US$70 million, out of which the Independiente coach kept US$17 million and Guillermo Barros Schelotto some US$700,000. They both wired their dividends to US banks, according to the report.

The irregularities stem from an audit carried out by Energy Secretariat, which oversees the “Renovar Programme” that draws energy from renewable generation sources, established on the basis of the concession of fiscal benefits, payment priority, financing and guarantees through the FODER Fund for Development of Renewable Energies as development tools.

The audited period ran from May 18, 2016 to December 31, 2021, but the detected irregularities date back to the Macri administration, said the AGN.

According to the AGN, the audit was aimed at checking the management, follow-up and control of the Energy Secretariat, on the planning and design of the Renovar programme, specifically in its relationship with the objectives suggested in the “Renewable energy development law” and the needs to diversify and federalise the national energy matrix.

The report, which consists of 126 pages, was approved during a session of the AGN General Auditors’ College, in which, among others, auditor general Miguel Ángel Pichetto was involved.

Pichetto, a dissident Peronist, was previously a leading member of the Cambiemos (2015-2019) and Juntos por el Cambio (2019 onwards) opposition coalitions and was Macri’s vice-presidential running-mate in the 2019 election.

Among the main finding of the audit, Resolution 202 was mentioned, a ruling issued in 2016 by then Energy & Mining Ministry, which “allowed the application of the benefits of Renovar to companies awarded previous programmes without taking part in the bidding process,” which caused “inequitable situations” with other participants of the programme.

In that vein, the AGN’s document showed that companies that signed contracts under the above-mentioned resolution “obtained prices higher than those established for successful bidders” previously. In addition, “the execution of contracts” was authorised at “prices higher than those calculated theoretically by the Auditing Office.” 

“The risk distribution scheme of the programme leant favourably towards companies to the detriment of the State, which even became a guarantor for the obligations of third parties, thus contingently compromising its own resources by assuming commitments with international bodies”, the audit asserted.

In addition, the report “detected the application of an erroneous exchange rate to calculate fiscal benefits,” both “at the time of its award and when it was granted, which implied recognising an amount in excess of US$4.6 million.”

Meanwhile, the document highlighted a “lack of knowledge” by the competent authority “or a failure to inform” the AGN “about operations of assignment and/or transfers of shares of some of the companies authorised to sign contracts” under the resolution of the then-Energy & Mining Ministry.

The AGN further verified “situations of disposal of shares which were unknown or uninformed” by the Ministry to the Auditing Office.

As a result of some of these irregularities, “37 percent of the power awarded” by the Renovar programme “remained uninstalled, thus reducing the expected benefit and slowing down the expansion of renewable generation”.

The AGN document highlighted that Renovar “did not manage to install the projects contractually committing energy at more competitive values, negatively affecting the average price of renewable energy”.

In 2018, the courts opened an investigation to determine whether the Cambiemos administration had illegally benefitted companies from the Macri Group that took part in the multi-million-dollar manoeuvre to purchase and sell wind farms.

According to Kirchnerite deputies Rodolfo Tailhade and Martín Doñate, it was a manoeuvre without a proper bidding process.

The denouncement by the deputies was based on two articles published by Perfil, the titles of which translate to: “Without bidding, companies from the Macri Group purchased and sold six wind farms”; and “The wind farms turned companies in the Macri Group at least US$48 million in profits.”

On March 16, 2021, Mariano Macri, brother of the former president, testified in the case where an alleged deal is being investigated with the purchase and sale of wind farms.

However, in that instance he refused to recognise everything he had said in the previously published book Hermano (“Brother”), written by journalist Santiago O´Donnell.

Before Judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi, the former president’s brother assured that he did not have elements to provide in relation with his brothers, family companies and wind farms, because he had not received any information about them since 2013.

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