“Pandora Papers – Panama Papers”: Amcham Guatemala’s Head Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote Featured In 26 Offshore Records
After the scandalous leak of documents of the Mossack Fonseca&Co law firm, an unprecedented corruption scandal erupted in the world. The Panama Papers launched an independent journalist investigation in 2016 together with the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
ICIJ (The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) created a database of information based on data from offshore zones, such as Paradise Papers, Panama Papers, Bahamas Leaks. It reveals more than 720,000 names of people and companies who, in one way or another, are behind the secret offshore structures.
On October 3, 2021, ICIJ journalists published materials from the Pandora Papers series “When Latin America’s elite wanted to hide their wealth, they turned to this Panama firm”: lawyers from Alcogal opened offshore companies and thus helped to launder money for more than 160 politicians and officials. The company also served the interests of some of the participants in the Odebrecht corruption scandal, to which we will return later.
In parallel, Alcogal and Mossack Fonseca&Co have a lot in common: both law firms have great influence and high status in the region. Both companies served influential people and always stayed in the shadows.
“There is one question remained — how many such counterparties operate in the shadow of democracy and are engaged in the protection of corruption?”
A group of human rights defenders investigated the situation in one of the most corrupt countries in Latin America — Guatemala — using news reports and open source data.
Why are we talking about Guatemala? It’s simple, because this is one of the places where billions of dollars dissolve, and despite all the scandals, the United States continues to stubbornly finance this Latin American country, and politicians continue to plunder funds.
The task is not to stop cooperation and funding but to prevent these funds from settling in the offshore accounts of Guatemalan corrupt officials.
In Guatemala, corruption is exquisitely mimicking democracy: Perez Molina, Morales, Giammattei, Sandoval and Mr. X, Pablo Carrasco de Groote — what is the role of the American Chamber of Commerce and why does the president of AmCham Guatemala need offshore business in Panama?
The current President Alejandro Giammattei traditionally took office with the intention to defeat corruption, crime and raise the standard of living of Guatemalans, as 23% of Guatemala citizens live in poverty, 3/5 of them are below the poverty line.
Trusting the new president in January 2020, the American Finance Corporation (DFC) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding. According to the USA Embassy: “The goal of the cooperation is to catalyze $1 billion in investment in Guatemala over 3 years.”
The memorandum was signed at the American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala (AmCham Guatemala) — remember this fact, we will return to it later.
What promises have Giammattei fulfilled? Absolutely nothing. The President actually failed vaccinations and found himself at the epicenter of a corruption scandal.
Background. Who is fighting corruption? In 2015, due to the activities of the CICIG (UN Anti-Corruption Commission), Otto Perez Molina lost his presidency and moved from his office to a prison cell. In 2016, Jimmy Morales, during his inauguration in the presence of Joe Biden, called for rallying to fight corruption. And two years later, he ordered the termination of the activities of CICIG, which launched an anti-corruption investigation. Thus, in Guatemala, only FECI wages an unequal fight against corruption.
In September anti-corruption prosecutors began investigating allegations of Giammattei’s involvement in bribery from Russian businessmen, Reuters reports. “Carpet with money,” at the suggestion of the fugitive ex-head of FECI Juan Sandoval, has spread all over the world media. And this is the traditional scenario for Guatemala, when one corrupt official launches an information attack against another.
Speaking of Sandoval’s background, in addition to prosecutorial affairs, he was a participant in negotiations for compensation from Odebrecht. The company was ready to pay damages to Latin American countries in the amount of $2.9 billion.
With the participation of Pablo Carrasco, a prominent lawyer, partner of Central Law and President of AmCham Guatemala, the country hasn’t received even a cent of the nearly three billion dollars in this high-profile case. The only one in Latin America.
ICJI journalists have disclosed names and intermediaries. A study of Guatemalan ties led to a law firm that left a long offshore trail through the persona of Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote.
The data on Mossack Fonseca led to the company called Central Law Internacional S.A. and Pablo Carrasco de Groote, the lawyer, vice president, director, and contractor for many companies.
In the Panama Papers, the name of Juan Pablo Carrasco de Groote appears in 26 records of the controversial Panama Papers in different companies, positions and at different times. Most of them are completely unknown, and their type of activity has not been identified.
Moreover, Pablo Carrasco appears as the director of Central Law Internacional S.A. In a company with the de facto similar name, Central Law en Guatemala, Carrasco is listed as a partner.
A similar company is physically located in Florida with another founder, Juan Diaz Duran Mendez. At the Guatemalan address of Central Law Mendez placed Diaz Duran Abogadoz, his personal law firm.
Both companies operate in:
- Guatemala (Ciudad de Guatemala)
- El Salvador (San Salvador)
- Honduras (Tegucigalpa y San Pedro Sula)
- Nicaragua (Managua)
- Costa Rica (San José, Escazú y Playa Santa Teresa)
- Panamá (Ciudad de Panamá)
- República Dominicana (Santo Domingo)
And of course, lawyers work in the United States through the American version of Central Law. The company was implicated in a scandal about the complicity of Federico Machado in laundering money from the sale of drugs and Ponzi schemes with a total amount of 350-560 million dollars, according to various sources.
The ability to quickly create a company and open an offshore account is a profitable option for people like Machado. How else to explain the connection between Central Law, Pablo Carrasco and a famous criminal. The Florida court is still investigating this case, and by a strange coincidence, Carrasco gets away with it.
Hundreds of millions of US dollars are washed out of the Guatemalan economy every year. And this would not have been possible without the help of companies like Mossak Fonseca, Alcogal, or Central Law. Even more so, it would be impossible without access to insider information and connections in the highest ranks.
Central Law’s address is listed as the primary address among hundreds of other companies that don’t actually do business.
Why do they need accounts in offshore zones?
For the Guatemalan elites, a corrupt official is something natural. For the United States, which finances democratic processes, this is a crime.
As we already said, in January 2020, the American Finance Corporation (DFC) signed a memorandum of partnership that could attract $1 billion in private investment. It happened at the Amcham Guatemala dealership.
By an amazing coincidence, the President of Amcham Guatemala is the same Pablo Carrasco, a partner of Central Law with multiple offshore businesses and accounts in Panama and the British Isles.
So is he a lawyer, a president, or an accountant? No investigative measures were ever taken against Carrasco. The anti-corruption prosecutor’s office doesn’t seem to specifically notice the obvious fast that the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Guatemala has access to insider information, uses it and successfully avoids responsibility.
These connections reportedly led to money laundering through the illegal activities of Machado’s mining company Minas del Pueblo. Carrasco, having contacts in the Ministry of Energy and Mines, probably managed to build a fictitious mining process without licenses.
On September 2, 2021, Karin Landaverry, ex-director of the Ministry, was detained on corruption charges. Landaverry held a leading position under Jimmy Morales and took part in Machado’s illegal activities. Traditionally, Carrasco has escaped the fate of other corrupt officials, and he continues to hold his post at Amcham.
When Washington, represented by the Amcham head office, is silent about this situation, it sows seeds of doubts about the decency of the association itself and noticeably damages its reputation.
According to Panama Papers, US prosecutors initiated a number of high-profile cases. All of the defendants were Fonseca’s clients. This was enough for the proceedings. The United States promised that a reaction would follow for these crimes.
De Groote is among the holders of shady offshore accounts, shell companies and a high position in the Representative Office of the American Chamber of Commerce. And Guatemala is waiting for an adequate response from Washington, the US Senate, the Amcham leadership and FECI prosecutors.
If Amcham wants to keep its face and reputation in the international arena, the Chamber is simply obliged to change the head of Guatemala.
America against corruption (US IG)