In 2015, in a deal which was not publicly announced, the Macri administration settled a government debt with the president’s family firm.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri has been accused of a conflict of interest after his government forgave a US$296 million debt to the country’s postal service, which was owned by Macri’s family.
The case dates back to 1997, when Grupo Macri, also known as Socma, owned by one of the country’s richest men and the president’s father Franco Macri, took control of Argentina’s postal service after it was privatized by former President Carlos Menem. The postal service then went bankrupt during the country’s economic crisis in 2001 and owed the Argentine government US$296 million.
The deal on the debt was never reached with the government until Macri took office in 2015, allowing his father’s company to repay the money over a period of 15 years at 7 percent interest. Last week, a prosecutor asked a court to block the deal, which was referred to as a “forgiveness of debt” that benefited the leader’s family in a conflict of interest.
Prosecutor Gabriela Boquin said the terms of the deal were overly generous, particularly since inflation and currency devaluation have eroded the peso’s value. The debt is now valued at around US$19 million. A judge will now decide whether or not to open an investigation into the deal.
Prosecutor Juan Pedro Zoni said that last year’s deal — which went ahead without a public announcement — means that the company would only end up paying about 1 percent of the total debt.
On Tuesday, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña asked for an independent audit with a panel of experts to come to a solution but claimed that Macri was not involved in the deal. “We believe this is an extra assurance because we are absolutely committed to transparent government,” said Peña, according to Reuters.
Peña added that “these discussions will always become political,” as Argentina heads into congressional elections later this year. Macri and his family have denied any wrongdoing.