* Tax agency says Cargill evaded at least $14 mln in taxes
* Fellow grains exporter Bunge also under investigation
* Cargill denies the charges, vows to appeal
By Magdalena Morales and Eduardo Garcia
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 8 An Argentine court has
indicted two executives of agribusiness giant Cargill [CARG.UL]
for suspected tax evasion, the tax agency said on Friday.
Last week, authorities raided the local premises of fellow
global grains exporter Bunge (BG.N) after the AFIP tax agency
accused the company of evading close to $300 million in income
tax between 2007 and 2009. [ID:nN07150061]. Bunge has denied
A court in charge of economic crimes has decided to
prosecute the chairman of Cargill's Argentine unit, Hector
Orlando Marsili, and Javier Gustavo Fernandez, an executive
working for Cargill's Uruguay branch.
Cargill Argentina is under suspicion of evading at least 56
million pesos ($14 million), the statement said, adding that
Bunge executives could also be indicted.
No one at Bunge in Buenos Aires or Rosario could be reached
immediately for comment.
Cargill denied wrongdoing. Cargill Argentina President Hugo
Krajnc told Reuters on Friday that "the judge had ignored all
the proofs provided by the company" and that the company plans
Late last month, AFIP chief Ricardo Echegaray, who is a
close ally of the center-left government in the world's No. 3
soy supplier, accused four of the country's largest grain
exporters of evading taxes in 2009, without naming them.
President Cristina Fernandez commented on the case on
Wednesday via her Twitter account saying: "it's incredible, the
more they earn the more they evade."
Fernandez has justified high export levies -- 35 percent on
soybeans -- as a way of redistributing the country's farming
riches in a country where tax evasion is rife.
The export taxes, boosted by a bumper soy and corn harvest,
have helped fuel robust tax revenue growth at year-on-year
rates of above 35 percent in recent months. Hefty tax revenue
allows Fernandez to maintain social spending ahead of a
presidential election next year.
As well as being the No. 3 supplier of soybeans, Argentina
is the world's top exporter of soyoil and soymeal and the
second-biggest corn provider after the United States.
Krajnc said the court decision on Friday stems from an
investigation by the AFIP regarding Cargill's operations
between the years 2000 and 2003.
AFIP accuses Cargill Uruguay, which is a branch of Cargill
Argentina, of under reporting revenue in those years.
The tax agency said Cargill Argentina used a scheme to sell
grains to its own branch in Uruguay, which would later resell
them at a lower price and report losses so that the parent
company in Argentina would have to pay less taxes.
Soy is Argentina's No. 1 export earner and the Rosario
grains exchange sees this year's agricultural exports totaling
$24 billion due to a bumper soy and corn harvest.
Privately held Cargill was Argentina's biggest exporter of
soyoil and soymeal last year, followed by Bunge Argentina,
Agriculture Ministry data shows.
(Additional reporting by Luis Andres Henao; Writing by Eduardo
Garcia; Editing by Nick Macfie)