Chile's President Sebastian Piñera Friday downplayed through his legal team a motion for his impeachment on the grounds that -in his view- it was all “an ostensible political-electoral maneuver” based on “manifestly false” facts which were revealed in the so-called Pandora Papers report.
According to the indictment, Piñera violated the Constitution by allegedly favoring the sale of a family mining project through a tax haven. Piñera's lawyer Jorge Gálvez filed a 242-page defense before the parliamentary committee evaluating the head of state's impeachment.
Galvéz said the events for which Piñera is accused - related to the so-called Dominga project - occurred between 2010 and 2011, due to which the statute of limitations should apply. The lawyer also claimed that the prosecution does not have nor does it offer any evidence of their claims. In addition to that, he maintained Piñera himself had no intervention in the sale of Dominga.
The Chilean Constitution allows for the impeachment of a president during the time in office and up to six months after it has ended.
The Dominga project, which seeks to install a mine, a desalination plant and a port in the commune of La Higuera, Coquimbo, 470 kilometers north of Santiago, was resurfaced this month after the release of the so-called Pandora Papers, which list more than 300 people involved in financial maneuvers through tax havens.
The lawmakers behind the impeachment process have argued that Piñera lacked the probity required for the position and damages the honor of the nation for his actions.
They are manifestly false facts, cleverly related and attributing intentions based on mere assumptions, all with the intention of creating the false impression that he would have privileged his personal interests over his duties as President of the Republic, the legal defense argued.
This accusation has no basis either in the truth or in the Constitution, and its main motivation, as recognized by the accusers themselves and the unusual haste with which they presented it, is of an electoral nature, says Gálvez's document, which was released Friday.
The Pandora Papers were an investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which revealed earlier this month that Carlos Delano, one of Chile's wealthiest businessmen and a friend of Piñera's, bought Minera Dominga, a firm in which the presidential family had a majority of shares. The transaction took place in 2010. The US $ 152 million dollar payment was spread into three installments through the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.
The last payment hinged on the Piñera government not applying regulatory changes that would hinder the installation of the mine and its port, which would imply a serious conflict of interest, since it allowed investors, including the president's family, to obtain a profit of 1,000% in 18 months.
Piñera has since maintained his innocence and insisted he had been acquitted by Chilean courts in 2017. This time around, Piñera's legal defense insisted the head of state had dettached himself from his family's affairs since 2009, before running for president.
The parliamentary committee must vote whether to impeach Piñera or not by Nov. 8 at the latest. If the impeachment is to go on, Piñera would be suspended from office while the full House of Deputies makes a decision for which 78 votes out 155 are required.
In the meantime, the country will go to presidential elections Nov. 21.