“It’s not the same thing to get rich at the expense of the state than to be part of a private company that works in the intermediation of athletes, these are two completely different worlds which leads me to believe those behind the article are looking to throw dirt.”
With those words, Valentín Díaz Gilligan, Sub-Secretary of the Argentine Presidency, rounded off his defence after being accused by Spanish daily El País of hiding an offshore bank account in the tax haven of Andorra with US$1.2 million.
Corruption takes on many shapes and comes in many forms, and while it isn’t immediately clear whether Díaz Gilligan played dirty — the Anti-Corruption Office led by Laura Alonso has already taken the case — this is but one more example of a top-level member of Mauricio Macri’s government finding himself in an uncomfortable position regarding his net worth, and it is indicative of a cultural change in which the businessman is vindicated, and therefore his capacity to profit on a good deal is seen as ethically justified. And while this is systematically different from the Kirchnerite incarnation of corruption, Díaz Gilligan’s explanation is absolutely unacceptable, as corruption is both a public and a private issue.
Before looking into the specifics of this issue, it’s important to note that it is part of a longer string of events that all boil down to the same thing: the new status of the businessman as the übermensch at the center of the productive societal network, with capital as the ultimate tool (and goal).
Last week’s investigation into Finance Minister Luis “Toto” Caputo’s ownership of offshore investment funds by Perfil, despite his repeated denials and the explicit conflict of interest it creates — the article is reproduced in this week’s edition of the Times — suggests the Macri administration is comfortable with these conflicts of interest. Several other cases, constantly mentioned in these pages — the Macri family’s dealings with the Correo and the wind farms acquired by Genneia, their sale of MacAir airline to Avianca, the case of spy chief Gustavo Arribas, Nicolás Caputo’s sale of his construction company, just to name a few — hammer the nail in the coffin.
According to El País, Díaz Gilligan opened an account for British firm Line Action at the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) in 2012, where he acted as shareholder and representative of the company, during which he was an advisor to the City of Buenos Aires’ Modernisation Ministry. In late 2014, when Díaz Gilligan was already the City’s tourism director, the account — with US$1.2 million sitting in it — ceased activity, and Gilligan renounced his position as director of the company, which he then sold. Interestingly, he was named director once again hours after resigning, always according to the investigation, which cites BPA documents (Andorra lifted its bank secrecy laws last year while BPA is being investigated for money-laundering by local authorities).
Díaz Gilligan’s defence rests on the argument that the money and the company belonged to his friend, football manager Francisco Casal. “He asked me for a favor […], I trusted him, the money was never mine,” he told the Spanish daily, adding, he had no idea the company was fully owned by a Panamanian firm (Nashville North, according to El País), and that his role in the firm was to launch sports channel GolTv in Argentina, owned by Casal, Enzo Francescoli, and Nelson Gutiérrez. Casal, stuck in an 11-year legal battle with the state of Uruguay for the alleged evasion of US$9 million in taxes, asked Díaz Gillian to be his placeholder.
Beyond the many contradictions between Díaz Gillian’s retort and his initial responses to the investigative journalists, it’s clear that a probe is necessary. Not only is the world of football absolutely rotten with corruption – just look at the FIFA scandal – but Díaz Gillian, as a high-ranking member of Macri’s government, has to both be clean and look clean. Ser y parecer, in Spanish.
It goes further. As Díaz Gillian himself explains, “you can’t build a country with corruption in the public sector.” Macri’s Cambiemos (Let’s Change) coalition needs to exaggerate their immaculacy in order to gain the trust of a society that is still licking its wounds from decades of economic mismanagement and crises. As the cases pile up, let’s hope Macri’s star advisor, Jaime Duran Barba, realises.