Offshore secrecy

Panama Papers investigation reveals Bolivia’s offshore connections

A new Panama Papers investigation has exposed connections between Bolivia and 127 offshore companies mainly registered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

The revelations involve Bolivian businessmen and politicians who went to Mossack Fonseca to create offshore companies. The reports include new links to business operations as well as former corruption scandals in the country.

This is the first time ICIJ has worked with a Bolivian partner on an investigation into the offshore world, after adding a team of local journalists to the Panama Papers project in September last year.

The investigation was led by journalists Nelfi Fernández and Fabiola Chambi from the newspapers El Deber in Santa Cruz and Los Tiempos in Cochabamba. They were supported by another ICIJ partner Connectas.

The one-year long investigation shows how the use of offshore companies increased after Bolivia’s president Evo Morales was first elected in December 2005. Of the 127 offshore Bolivian related companies, 93 percent were registered between 2006 and 2015

It also reveals the use of a Panamanian company by American businessman Jacob Ostreicher to do business in Bolivia.

The documents also further expose Ostreicher’s relationship with a Colombian woman who used to work for him – Claudia Liliana Rodriguez.

Previously, Ostreicher accused Rodriguez of fraud when he was detained as part of a money laundering investigation in 2011.

Rodriguez later went to jail and Ostericher escaped Bolivia, thanks to the help of American actor Sean Penn. Several officials went to prison for extortion charges in relation to this case.

Cochabamba’s power connections

The stories published on Sunday also reveal more details about three offshore companies connected to the purchase of shares involving one of Cochabamba’s biggest electricity companies.

The $17 million operation has been under scrutiny by the congress commission that was investigating the Panama Papers, after ICIJ published the Offshore Leaks database that included a company that mediated the purchase operation.

The investigation also reveals that the Bolivian Consulate in Panama authenticated documents linked to 57 offshore companies between 2007 and 2015.

In May 2016 Bolivian Congress announced an investigation of the Bolivians connected to the Panama Papers. The special commission created to investigate the Panama Papers finished its work in September 2017 and said it was going to hand in the result of its analysis to Congress.

Follow these links to read all the stories published by ICIJ partners (in Spanish):

El Deber

Los Tiempos