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Aranguren also in the spotlight as he refuses to sell Shell stock

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The sworn declarations of the assets belonging to the officials of the Mauricio Macri presidency (presented last Thursday at the Anti-Corruption Office) reveal varying degrees of wealth among a total of of over 430 million pesos but no item had more impact than the 16 million pesos worth of shares retained in Shell by Energy and Mining Minister Juan José Aranguren because it also represents a conflict of interest.

But Aranguren (with a 38-year career in Shell, whose local branch he headed for 12 years until last December when he joined Macri’s Cabinet) has no plans to shed the shares. Ministry spokesmen hastened to defend the situation of controlling the oil industry while owning shares in one of its companies by arguing: “The only restriction imposed by the law is that the minister cannot take specific decisions concerning Shell as a company previously employing him.”

PRO deputy Pablo Tonelli also defended Aranguren by arguing: “He has no direct interests.”

Yet this conflict of interests is not the only awkward item in Aranguren’s declaration of his assets. The 16 million pesos of shares (earning three million in dividends) form part of total declared assets of 86.6 million, a 95 percent increase on the previous year. Savings accounts — the equivalent of almost 50 million pesos in the United States, 4.2 million pesos in Holland and two other accounts worth US$280,000 and 200,000 euros — explain most of the rest with much of the remainder in real estate.

Yesterday afternoon Aranguren’s offices were raided in connection with a YPF investigation.

The collective fortune of Macri’s Cabinet totalled 433,096,304 pesos, 61 percent more than Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Cabinet last year with a collective 268,071,242. The list is incomplete — Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio and Environment Minister Sergio Bergman have yet to present their statements. Production Minister Francisco Cabrera, Belgrano Plan head José Cano and Public Communications Secretary Jorge Grecco all reported less assets than the previous year.

The steepest increase was posted by Vice-President Gabriela Michetti (up 708 percent from 142,656.89 pesos last year to 1,152,717.59) but she was far from being the richest official — indeed she was third from the bottom, ahead of only Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña (515,531 pesos) and Cano (679,010). Her Balvanera flat (valued at 842,262 pesos, up from 118,000 last year) comprises the lion’s share of her assets.

The wealthiest Cabinet minister under Macri is Deputy Cabinet Chief Mario Quintana with 61 million pesos distributed around an array of companies (some of them with state contracts).

Peña on zero poverty

Cabinet Chief Marco’s Peña’s assets are unlikely to put him in trouble, but his words as the top spokesman for the government probably pose some risk.

Yesterday, he argued that the government’s “zero poverty” slogan should not be taken at face value, saying that it is an “unreachable” goal, but one that should still inspire officials as a top priority.

Herald staff

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