By Vanessa Cisneros, Valeria Durán and Lucía Vergara
MÉXICO, (June 14, 2021).- In audits carried out in 2019 and 2020, the SAT discovered simulated operations of 6 so-called “ghost” companies with the Government of Chiapas, when the governor of that state was Manuel Velasco, current senator of the Green Party. Despite the discovery of these acts of corruption, Morena formalized an alliance with Partido Verde this year and now depends on that party to maintain the majority in Congress. Velasco himself endorsed last Sunday – election day – his willingness to support López Obrador’s political project from the Legislature. Will the pardon to the deviations of the government of his ally be negotiated?
The current federal administration identified non-existent or simulated operations for more than 500 million pesos by the government of Chiapas, when that entity was governed by the current senator for the Green Party, Manuel Velasco Coello, who has openly declared his support for the political project from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Irregular operations of the Government of Velasco were detected by the Tax Administration Service (SAT) in audits carried out between 2019 and 2020 of six companies officially listed as simulators of operations, also known as “ghost” or “invoice makers” (factureras) firms, as recorded in documents obtained by Mexicans against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI).
MCCI reporters visited the homes of the alleged partners of the companies in Chiapas and Morelos and found out that the alleged owners of those companies were people of humble condition, without business activity, whose identity was allegedly stolen. Tax addresses do not correspond to companies either; in one case, the domicile is a house with a tin roof and in another a vacant lot.
Representing Velasco, lawyer José Luis Nassar said that the former governor could not know all the operations carried out in his government, because he delegated decisions to members of his cabinet. For this reason, he was in favor of investigating and clarifying whether the services contracted to these companies were executed and, if not, the responsible officials should be defined.
Even though the SAT discovered the deviations in Velasco’s management since 2019, the federal authorities have not promoted legal actions. On the contrary, in March of this year, the official Morena party formalized an electoral alliance with the Green Party, of which Velasco is a prominent member and leader.
This alliance more than paid off to the Green Party, which multiplied by three the number of positions in the Chamber of Representatives. Now that party is Morena’s strategic ally to maintain the majority in Congress.
On June 6, in the middle of the electoral day, Velasco spoke out in favor of ‘El Verde’ maintaining its legislative alliance with Morena and supporting López Obrador.
Although it obtained only 5.5% of the votes, it is estimated that the Green will have around 43 seats, enough to tip the balance in all the votes. This is because in the “Together We Make History” coalition agreement it was agreed that of the 183 single-member districts in which the ruling party and the green party went together, 50 were for a member of the PVEM if the coalition won.
This agreement was made in March 2021, when the López Obrador administration was already aware of the diversion of resources in the Velasco government.
Deviations coincide with the delivery of money to Pío (AMLO´s brother)
David León Romero, who has worked with the Green Party and Velasco, was featured in a video in August last year when he handed bags of cash to Pío López Obrador, the president’s brother, to allegedly finance the campaign for the presidency.
These videos, disseminated by the Latinus site, were taken by David León himself in June 2015. The date for the delivery of the money in bags occurred months after the diversions of the Velasco government to shell companies began. In 2014 alone, a single shell company issued more than 1,500 invoices to the Government of Chiapas that covered payments of 59 million pesos. The amounts rose in the following years.
David León collaborated as a communication advisor with the Velasco government in Chiapas, according to journalists, although he has denied it. He had previously worked with Velasco, between March 2011 and February 2012, when the Chiapas politician had been a senator for the first time.
In his official resume, David León confirmed that he worked for the Green Party between March 2011 and January 2013, first as a communication coordinator and then as a coordinator of advisers in the parliamentary groups in the Senate and in the Chamber of Representatives. In his position in the Senate he coincided with Velasco.
When the videos were made public on Latinus, León explained from his personal twitter account that his “way of supporting the Movement (of López Obrador) was to collect resources among acquaintances to hold assemblies and other activities.” He never specified the origin of the money.
David León was to be appointed director of the Federal Government’s drug distribution company in August 2020 but resigned before taking office after the scandal of the videos in which he appeared delivering bags of money to Pío López Obrador the “uncomfortable brother” of the president.
MCCI contacted David León by telephone, who assured that he did not work as a public servant for the Chiapas government, nor as an advisor to Manuel Velasco, so he does not know if funds were diverted through shell companies. However, there are journalists who have confirmed that when Velasco was governor, it was David León who contacted them on his behalf.
Regarding his participation in the videos with Pío López Obrador, and the origin of the money given for campaigns, León said that he cannot speak since there is an open investigation folder.
Deviations could exceed $ 1.1 billion pesos
Operadora Zall, Grupo Asesor Odul, Fectibilidad Empresarial de México, Advisor Groups Soluciones, Maquiladora Textil GM and Constructora Jaguar Negro are the ghost companies that the current federal administration discovered that they issued false invoices to the Velasco government for more than 500 million pesos.
This alleged deviation discovered by the SAT is different from the one that the Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF) reported in 2019, for 685 million pesos paid to 26 allegedly ghost companies for the aid program for single mothers.
Altogether the irregular payments to shell companies previously reported by the ASF and now by the SAT add up to around 1,185 million pesos during the Velasco government.
At the time, the former secretary of Women’s Empowerment, Itzel de León, detached herself from the anomalies reported by the ASF. However, the new SAT documents obtained by MCCI state that, indeed, this agency was used for the alleged diversion of funds.
The companies Grupo Asesor Odul and Operadora Zall issued invoices in 2016 for 50.8 million pesos for services that the SAT has determined were non-existent or simulated.
The SAT auditors made a visit to the fiscal domicile of Grupo Asesor Odul in Cuernavaca, Morelos, and what they found was a modest property with a tin roof, as described in the report delivered to their superiors. That company issued invoices for 40 million pesos to the Government of Velasco.
On November 6, 2020, the General Administration of Fiscal Audit of the SAT prepared a report on Maquiladora Textil GM –another of the companies contracted by Velasco-, in which it warned: “it did not have or had the assets, infrastructure, or direct and indirect material capacity, as well as with the necessary personnel to carry out its economic activity ”.
Similar resolutions were drawn up in the course of 2019 and 2020 on another five ghost companies that issued invoices to the Chiapas government for concepts as diverse as execution of public works, sale of school packages, pantries, teaching materials, security services and even the hiring of singers. After a series of audits, the SAT concluded that the aforementioned companies had simulated these operations.
The highest amount corresponds to Operadora Zall, which billed the Chiapas government 175 million pesos from February to December 2016. The tax receipts do not provide details of what they sold or the services they provided.
Among the government entities to which that company issued invoices are the Secretariat for Development and Participation, the Secretariat for the Empowerment of Women, the College of High School Students of Chiapas, the Secretariat for Security, and Conalep Chiapas.
The company reported its address in a private one in the San José Mayorazgo neighborhood, in Puebla. On March 15, 2019, the auditors visited that address and found an empty house. Neighbors reported not knowing the company and stated that the house had been empty for more than two years.
The second ghost company with the most contracts in Chiapas was Maquiladora Textil GM, which in 2016 billed services for 130 million pesos to the Ministry of Development and Participation, the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection and the Instituto Amanecer, a department dedicated to the elderly care.
SAT reports state that this company never presented any informative statement of wages and salaries, statements corresponding to Income Tax (ISR) withholdings and did not issue payroll receipts.
“It has been detected that this taxpayer issued tax receipts without having the assets, the personnel, or the capacity to provide the services or produce, market and deliver the goods indicated in said receipts,” reads the resolution consulted by MCCI . This company was dissolved on April 8, 2019, it was corroborated in the property registry.
They provide a lot as domicile
The Polytechnic University of Chiapas signed in October 2015 two contracts for 106 million pesos with Advisor Groups Soluciones Integrales y de Proyección SA de CV, for the “acquisition of equipment and the installation and operation service for the analysis and processing of large databases of data”.
But the company was non-existent, as determined by auditors who visited both the address provided in its documentation and the tax address that appeared on the invoices.
One of the addresses corresponded to a lot in which the auditors found that a group of social housing was under construction. In addition, the SAT reported that the company had not submitted its annual income statement and after an audit determined that it had simulated operations. On September 2, 2019, he included it in his definitive list of shell companies.
Thousands of invoices from a company
According to the list of hundreds of invoices reviewed by MCCI, the Chiapas Ministry of Education paid 55.3 million pesos to the company Fectibilidad Empresarial de México in 2014 to provide supposed didactic and laboratory material to preschool and primary schools.
Products covered by the bills include Power Gigo robot games, Gigo solar energy laboratory games, electromagnetism games, multi-functional skill development boards and toy bowling alley games.
This was not the only agency that gave them contracts. The Chiapas Ministry of Finance paid 118 thousand pesos for the hiring of singers for various events; the Institute of Renewable Energies of the same state disbursed 451 thousand pesos for “various services” and the Amanecer Institute, dedicated to the care of the elderly, paid 2.7 million for alleged pantries. In addition, the company billed 249 thousand pesos in various services to the Urban Transport System of Tuxtla, a transport company in which the Chiapas government has a stake.
In total, Business Feasibility of Mexico issued in 2014 more than 1,550 invoices to the Chiapas government that cover payments for more than 60 million pesos.
Business Feasibility was established in Tuxtla Gutiérrez on April 13, 2012 by two partners who reported residing in the popular neighborhoods Miravalle and Patria Nueva, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
The ghost works
In October 2020, the SAT included Constructora Jaguar Negro in its definitive list of ghost companies. The company, incorporated in Coapilla, Chiapas, signed 10 contracts with the Chiapas government, nine of them for public works and all dated August 10, 2018, in the last days of the Velasco government. The total amount of the contracted amounts to 55 million pesos.
The works had to be carried out in the common areas of the municipalities of Trinitaria, Tapachula, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Marqués de Comillas and Huixtán.
According to the company’s charter, the construction company was created on January 28, 2015, by a woman who identified herself as a merchant and who said she lived in a popular area of Tuxtla Gutiérrez.
Defines Velasco as his lawyer
José Luis Nassar, a lawyer for Velasco, dismissed the former governor of Chiapas of responsibility for the operations with allegedly ghost companies. He clarified that the decisions of the contracts are the responsibility of the holders of each agency.
“When a person wins the executive title of a state by popular election, it is his obligation to set up his cabinet. Each agency has its own budgetary autonomy (…) So, it is important to divide the functions and know which agencies used the services and which services, in order to be able to reach the viability of a true service provided, a true service charged, regardless of the fiscal status that these companies keep today ”.
He stressed that the then Governor would not have had enough time to fulfill his mandate as head of the Executive Power in Chiapas and at the same time see how the different agencies assigned, paid and supervised each of the contracts.
“(Velasco) is the most interested in being able to know in detail each one of these operations that emerged from these Secretariats and where the important thing here is to know where they come from, what they were used for, what was the service (contracted) and not that is necessarily dependent or known to the head of the Executive ”.