President of Chile Faces Impeachment Bid over Pandora Papers

Demonstrators march with posters depicting Chilean President Sebastian Pinera during a teachers' protest against the government, outside La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, on October 13, 2021. - Chile's opposition on Wednesday moved to impeach the country's president, Sebastian Pinera, for the controversial sale of a mining company through a …
CLAUDIO REYES/AFP via Getty Images

Opposition lawmakers in Chile launched impeachment proceedings against the country’s president, Sebastián Piñera, on Wednesday, claiming he was involved with alleged irregularities in the 2010 sale of a mining company according to details recently divulged in the Pandora Papers leak.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington, DC, began publishing leaked data known as the Pandora Papers on October 3. The nearly 12 million documents and files reveal the hidden wealth, tax avoidance, and money laundering schemes of the world’s elite, including acting heads of state.

The Pandora Papers suggest Chilean President Piñera — who is both a billionaire businessman and politician — may have sold the Dominga Mine, a copper and iron project located in an environmentally sensitive region of Chile, to a childhood friend in 2010 under allegedly corrupt circumstances.

The Associated Press

Chilean President Sebastian Piñera gives a press conference at La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. Piñera is one of hundreds of current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of secret offshore bank accounts to hide their investments and shield assets, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in a global report released on Oct. 3, 2021, dubbed the “Pandora Papers.” (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Piñera allegedly sold the mine to a friend according to a deal contingent on not declaring the site’s surrounding area an environmentally protected zone. The sale took place in 2010 just nine months after Piñera was elected to the office of Chile’s president. Chile’s government ultimately chose not to officially designate the mining region an environmentally sensitive area.

In response to the Pandora Papers revelation, the office of the Chilean presidency issued a statement saying Piñera had “no role in, or information about, the sale of the mining project, and that he had not been involved in the management of any company for more than 12 years,” the BBC recalled on October 13.

President Piñera himself has denied that the Dominga Mine deal contained any irregularities. After learning that the Chilean prosecutor’s office had launched a criminal probe into the 2010 deal on October 8, Piñera noted that the mining sale was previously examined in 2017 during a judicial investigation that later cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Demonstrators supporting the reform of the Chilean constitution celebrate while waiting for the referendum official results at Plaza Italia square in Santiago on October 25, 2020. - Chile's President Sebastian Pinera called on the nation to work together for a "new constitution" after Chileans voted overwhelmingly to replace their dictatorship-era charter. (Photo by Pedro Ugarte / AFP) (Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Demonstrators supporting the reform of the Chilean constitution celebrate while waiting for the referendum official results at Plaza Italia square in Santiago on October 25, 2020. – Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera called on the nation to work together for a “new constitution” after Chileans voted overwhelmingly to replace their dictatorship-era charter. (Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Piñera, a political independent, said, “it is difficult to understand” the decision of the prosecutor’s office to pursue an additional probe of the sale given that the disclosed facts were already “investigated” and “dismissed” in 2017.

“Leftist lower house lawmaker Jaime Naranjo, one of the drivers of the impeachment proceeding, said Pinera had ‘openly infringed the Constitution … seriously compromising the honor of the nation,'” Reuters reported on October 13 of the opposition’s push to impeach President Piñera based on the Pandora Papers leak.

Piñera used “his office for personal business,” leftist Chilean Congressman Tomas Hirsch said as he presented the accusation in the lower house of Congress.

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