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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Argentinean Money Documents Unsealed

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A federal judge ordered a complaint unsealed in which a U.S. corporation accuses Argentinean insiders of using hundreds of Nevada shell companies to launder $65 million in Argentinean pesos.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach on Thursday partly approved and partly denied a motion to unseal documents in NML Capital's attempt to recoup $1.7 billion worth of Argentinean bonds.

NML in 2001 refused to restructure the $1.7 billion in Argentina bonds it held at a time when other bondholders agreed to restructure and suffered a 70 percent loss, Ferenbach wrote in his Feb. 19 order.

NML successfully sued Argentina in 2003 in New York's Southern District and since then has tried to collect by locating property owned by Argentina that could help pay the judgments, Ferenbach wrote in his 16-page order.

The search led to Nevada, where NML claims "insiders" from Argentina created hundreds of shell corporations to launder $65 million in embezzled Argentinean pesos.

NML says those insiders, Lazaro Baez and Cristobal Lopez, received lucrative state-controlled projects from Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.

Through those projects, NML says the two have laundered state money, which "NML intends to attach because a 'thief acquires no title to the property which he steals,'" Ferenbach wrote.

Ferenbach says NML is focusing its efforts on Nevada-based M.F. Corporate Services, which has an office in Henderson and one client - the Mossack & Fonseca law firm of Panama. NML says Mossack & Fonseca use M.F. to create corporations in jurisdictions around the world to enable its clients to reduce their exposure to taxation and regulations.

NML claims M.F. is the alter ego of Mossack & Fonseca and serves as the "operations hub or Argentina's money-laundering scheme."

M.F's sole employee, Patricia Amunategui, has given a deposition in the matter and wants to keep it sealed to prevent ceaseless calls from U.S. and foreign journalists and others interested in the matter and to prevent damage to her reputation and the company, Ferenbach wrote.

But Ferenbach found that public interest in the matter is too significant to keep her deposition sealed.

"The court cannot adjudicate this matter in secret," Ferenbach wrote. "The public interests are too significant. They involve the health of the global bond market, the court's constitutional role in finalizing cases and controversies, and credible allegations of fraud involving hundreds of Nevada corporations and a sovereign nation."

Ferenbach granted the motion to unseal the deposition but ordered that Amunategui's personal information be redacted, including her Social Security number, immigration status, travel plans and personal contact information, including her home and personal email addresses.

The deposition with the redacted information must be presented to Amunategui's attorney by Wednesday for his approval.

Either the redacted deposition must be filed by March 4, or a sealed joint statement must be filed by March 5, with potential disagreements to be resolved no later than March 9, when a hearing on the matter is scheduled.

The order comes as President Kirchner is under intense heat in Argentina, following the alleged suicide of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman on Jan. 18, hours before he was to testify about Kirchner's alleged participation in the cover-up of Iran's alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and injured hundreds. A draft arrest warrant for Kirchner was found among Nisman's papers.

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