Mossack Fonseca Strolled Through Puerto Rico Looking for Clients
The Panamanian multinational law firm Mossack Fonseca is rarely known by the majority of Puerto Ricans, but Puerto Rico is not exactly unknown to the law firm.
More than 6,000 internal documents of the controversial law firm mention Puerto Rico, a few of their businessmen and companies, and a dozen of the main law firms in San Juan, according to research by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI by its Spanish initials), as part of the 11.5 million files that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Mossack Fonseca (MF) has offices in 35 countries and has specialized in creating anonymous companies and offshore bank accounts for clients that include a long list of the rich and famous, as well as politicians and criminals from around the world.
With regard to Puerto Rico, MF has served a number of Puerto Rican clients directly, such as Omega Engineering, Banco Popular of Puerto Rico, GlobalTek Puerto Rico Ltd. and Galephar Puerto Rico Ltd.
Omega Engineering S.E. is the construction company that started the controversial Paseo de Puerta de Tierra, and at the moment, the president & CEO of this company, Oscar Rivera, is being accused by the Panama Justice Department and has an arrest warrant for an alleged money-laundering scheme under the command of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli. According to the examined documents, in 2008, Rivera ordered MF to build an “offshore” corporation, giving him the choice of possible venues in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, the Bahamas, Samoa or Panama. He chose Panama and requested the name OESE Financial Panama Inc.
Galephar Puerto Rico Ltd. was an investigation and pharmaceutical product-development corporation registered in Puerto Rico in 1987, originally organized in the islands of St. Vincent & Grenadines by Arthur Deboeck; the company was “cancelled’ in 2014. In 1995, Deboeck also incorporated Galephar Pharmaceutical Research in Puerto Rico, which is in the same line of business.
GlobalTek Puerto Rico Ltd. was registered in 2002 as a foreign corporation with offices in San Juan’s Santurce district, but after that date, no activity has been reflected within the P.R. State Department; therefore, the company was apparently “cancelled” as well. In that same year, MF registered the company in the British Virgin Islands. The CPI was not able to determine what kind of commercial activity the company dedicated or dedicates itself.
Popular entrusted MF with jobs related to purchasing the technological development company T.I.I. Smart Solutions in Costa Rica, incorporated in the U.S. Virgin Islands, by Popular International Bank, the transference of such shares to Popular Inc., and those of Popular Inc. to Evertec Latin America, and the subsequent incorporation of the new T.I.I. Smart Solutions resulting from the transaction.
In March 2009, MF personnel completed an analysis of the principal law firms in Puerto Rico to determine which would be visited during a search for new clients.
“With the information I could find, the most important…are: (1) McConnell Valdés; (2) Fiddler González & Rodríguez; (3) O’Neill & Borges; (4) Cancio, Nadal, Rivera & Díaz; [and] (5) Pietrantoni Méndez & Álvarez. Sofía Rodríguez can give us the prospectus and the clients in Puerto Rico that appear in the database to see if the previous ones are included and also, to add more possible contacts,” reads one of the internal emails sent March 30, 2009 by Humberto Urroz, director of business development at MF.
The five law firms mentioned were contacted, as well as Fernández, Collins & Rivero-Vergne; Nigaglioni & Ferraiuoli; Pellot-González; and Ferraiouli, Torres, Marchand & Rovira, as evidenced by subsequent exchanges.
Attorney Samuel Céspedes, of McConnell Valdés, indicated in a telephone interview that he does not recall the meeting with MF personnel, nor does he remember the name of the firm, but that it was possible for the meeting to have taken place, since external law firms regularly visit McConnell Valdés to present their services. However, he assured that they have never conducted any business with MF and that the Panamanian law firm is not a member of the two international associations with which they have done business: Lexmundi and the Ibero-American Association of Lawyers.
For his part, attorney Fernando Rovira, of Ferraiouli, Torres, Marchand & Rovira, said he remembered the visit and having participated in the meeting, but it was “inconsequential,” and his firm also did not do any business with MF. According to him, MF personnel presented their services and incorporation in Panama and put themselves at the disposal of Rovira’s law firm if they had any interested clients.
“We did not have business with them, and we have not heard of them ever since,” he affirmed.