BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s chief negotiator at peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels said on Thursday he created a company in Panama several years ago to manage his family’s wealth and paid taxes in full to the Colombian government.
Humberto de la Calle, a former Colombian vice president, said in a statement he had been asked about the company by journalists from Colombian website Connectas, one of more than 100 media outlets investigating the so-called Panama Papers leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The firm specializes in establishing offshore companies, which could be used to avoid taxes, but there are several legitimate reasons for individuals and corporations to set them up.
According to a Connectas report, de la Calle appears in Mossack Fonseca documents in connection with two companies - Gran Villa Capital S.A. and Davinia Properties S.A.
“In the past I created a family company called Davinia, its only purpose being to serve as a holder for family wealth,” de la Calle said in a statement to Connectas that was released on the website.
De la Calle said the company’s creation in 2009 was reported to Colombian authorities. It has since been closed, its assets moved to Colombia and registered with the chamber of commerce, he said. The statement did not say when the company was liquidated.
The release of four decades of documents showing how the politically connected and rich stash their wealth has led to investigations around the world. Mossack Fonseca has denied any wrongdoing.
When contacted by Connectas and other media about the assets, de la Calle answered their questions and provided copies of his tax return, the statement said.
De la Calle, who leads the government’s negotiating team at talks in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said he supported the release of the information but believed law-abiding people wanting to protect their wealth were being conflated with criminals.
Connectas also reported that Frank Pearl, another government peace negotiator, opened two companies with the help of Mossack Fonseca, one of which has since been closed.
Pearl confirmed to the website he opened both companies, but said one never had any assets and the other was registered with Colombian regulators and included in his taxes.
“Colombian law allows citizens and residents to have assets, debts and investments in foreign countries, under clear reporting laws,” Pearl said.
Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney