By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
More than 3,000 Mexicans — including three billionaires and a former close advisor to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) — have been implicated in the so-called Pandora Papers, a trove of more than 11.8 million documents collected by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that exposes secretive offshore accounts that allowed government leaders, financial tycoons and criminals to shield their assets.
According to the leaked files, which were reviewed by a team of 600 journalists and released Sunday, Oct. 3, through numerous international media outlets, Mexican mining tycoon Germán Larrea, Modelo beer heiress María Asunción Aramburuzabala and hotel, insurance and hospital conglomerate owner Olegario Vázquez Aldir all used foreign tax havens to conceal combined fortunes amounting to more than $30 billion.
Larrea allegedly used nine different shell companies in the British Virgin Islands between 2013 and 2016 to secretly acquire luxury real estate in the United States, while Aramburuzabala purportedly purchased properties in both Utah and New York that she did not declare.
For his part, Vázquez Aldir allegedly purchased several mansions, yachts and a plane through eight shell companies, although he has since stated that he has complied with all tax and legal obligations both in Mexico and abroad.
Also implicated in the Pandora Papers is Julio Scherer Ibarra, a close legal advisor to López Obrador up until last month, who once famously proclaimed that “reporters should be silenced.”
According to the Pandora Papers report, in 2017, Scherer Ibarra was listed as the sole proprietor of $2 million, British Virgin Islands-based company with a luxury apartment in Miami.
According to the files, that company became inactive in 2019, 11 months after Scherer joined AMLO’s team of advisors, but the company in the United States continues to own the Miami apartment.
Questioned Sunday about the British Virgin Island company, Scherer Ibarra said that he made the investments prior to becoming a public official.
The Pandora Papers also implicate close associates of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and several suppliers of the state-owned oil giant Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), which with outstanding financial obligations of $114 billion is the most-indebted oil venture in the world.
The Pandora Papers have also allegedly shown that 35 current or former world leaders and more than 300 other public officials around the world have held undeclared offshore holdings, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the current prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Kenya, and the Jordan King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein.
Also implicated are Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso and Dominican President Luis Abinader, as well as 11 former Latin American presidents, including César Gaviria and Andrés Pastrana from Colombia, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru, Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, Horacio Cartes of Paraguay, and Juan Carlos Varela, Ricardo Martinelli and Ernesto Pérez Balladares of Panama.