Chilean Mining Firm Investigated for Tax Evasion, Illegal Donations
Bachelet and Piñera Governments Linked to Latest Corruption Scandal
High profile corruption scandals in Chile continue to pile up, implicating both the governing and opposition coalitions parties, and even reaching as high as the office of President Michelle Bachelet.
On Thursday, April 2, the Chilean Internal Tax Service (SII) filed a formal complaint against mining and utilities company SQM Chile. The group’s principal director is Julio Ponce Lerou, the former son-in-law of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The investigation centers around allegations of irregular financing of political campaigns and tax evasion.
The tax authority submitted a list of individuals under investigation to the Public Ministry, including Chilean politicians, their family members and advisers, political activists, and officials from both the first Bachelet administration (2006-2010) and the that of Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014).
The SII complaint alleges that three legal representatives from SQM employed schemes to illegally avoid large amounts of tax, such as registering 846 false tax receipts for more than CHL$4.34 million (US$6.94 million).
At least five individuals allegedly submitted receipts for fees collected for work that was never performed. Another three individuals presented documents in the company’s name even though services were rendered to another party. Almost 150 individuals submitted receipts for fees “presumed to be false,” and 24 companies presented bills in the name of SQM, for which the SII has not been able to find supporting documents.
The records presented by the SII include businesses that rendered services to the Bachelet campaign in 2013, firms linked to former President Piñera and Chile’s current ambassador in Paraguay, Alejandro Bahamondes of the Democratic Party. In addition, the list includes candidates’ and congressmen’s children.
The SQM case joins two existing corruption scandals that have rocked Chile’s political system. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is currently investigating allegations of that Bachelet’s son offered political influence to Banco de Chile in return for a multimillion dollar loan for lucrative business operations carried out by his wife’s company.
Authorities have also recently made formal charges in the Penta case, a long-running scandal involving allegedly illegal campaign financing and tax evasion, predominantly implicating opposition politicians and former members of Piñera’s government.