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Chile's opp. launches impeachment against president after Pandora Papers leak

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera (photo by AFP)

Chilean opposition lawmakers have launched impeachment proceedings against President Sebastian Pinera over possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company revealed in the so-called Pandora Papers.

Pinera used “his office for personal business,” Congressman Tomas Hirsch said on Wednesday as he presented the impeachment charge in the lower house of congress, the first step in a legal process that could last for several weeks.

Earlier this month, Chile’s public prosecutor’s office said that it would open an investigation into possible bribery-related corruption charges and tax violations related to the 2010 sale of the Dominga mine, which took place during Pinera’s first term in office.

The latest plan to impeach the president could be voted on in congress before the first round of Chile’s general elections on November 21. If approved by the lower house, it will go to the senate, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority if Pinera is to be removed from office.

The Pandora Papers are the biggest trove of leaked offshore data in history, which revealed how politicians, billionaires, and the global elite allegedly evaded taxes through offshore tax havens.

Over 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries helped review the 12 million documents leaked from 14 financial services companies conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The ICIJ found that 35 heads of state and government and more than 300 politicians had allegedly set up offshore structures and trusts in tax havens from the British Virgin Islands to Hong Kong and Belize.

Among them are documents that appear to outline a 2010 deal involving the stake sale by Pinera’s children in the Dominga mining project to his close friend and business partner, Carlos Alberto Delano.

The Pandora Papers investigation found evidence to suggest that the third installment of the payment contained a clause requiring “not establishing an area of environmental protection in the area of operations of the mining company, as demanded by environmental groups.”

Pinera, whose fortune amounts to $2.5 billion according to the Forbes magazine, has rejected the accusations, saying that all his assets had been placed under a blind trust from the time of his first presidency (2010-2014) and that the courts had cleared him of any crime after an investigation in 2017.

Pinera’s second term, which began in March 2018, is set to end next March. Presidential and legislative elections are due in November, with polls suggesting left-wing candidates are likely to gain ground.

The incumbent will be leaving office deeply unpopular due to his mismanagement of issues such as the pandemic, an economic crisis, and rising tensions with the Mapuche people. His most important failure came after his right-wing coalition suffered a shock defeat in an election in May for a constituent assembly tasked with rewriting the country’s constitution.

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