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In English:
03 September 2014 13:09

Impoverished mayors
By Fabiola Torres Lópe z
Ten authorities 'lost' wealth while they were in office. However, three of them
-Felipe Castillo, Carlos and Jorge Burgos Barthelmess- are under investigation for
embezzlement and their sworn statements have not been an accurate reflection of
their income and assets. An analysis by OjoPúblico of documents sent by Lima’s 43
mayors to the Comptroller reveals that the wealth of ten diminished during their
years in power. However, five of these individuals are under investigation for
embezzlement and other forms of corruption.
Three mayors are the subject of on-going judicial processes for these crimes: Felipe
Alfaro Castillo (Los Olivos), Carlos Burgos Horna (San Juan) and Jorge Barthelmess
Camino (San Bartolo). Prosecutors also investigated Majino Oscar Benavides (Ate)
and Rafael Santos Normand (Pueblo Libre) for corruption, although according to the
anti-corruption prosecutor, Christian Salas, their cases were closed during the last
two years.
Felipe Castillo, the mayor of Los Olivos and current Siempre Unidos Party
candidate for mayor of Lima, reported a 31% drop in his wealth between 2003 and
2014, i.e. his fortune fell from PEN 607,128 to PEN 419,706 during twelve consecutive
years of district government.
However, Castillo, charged with misappropriation of funds, did not identify all his
assets in his sworn statement this year. In that document he reported only one house,
in El Trebol Avenue of Los Olivos, two blocks of land in the resort town of Santa Rosa,
a car and PEN 144,643 classified as money protected in bank accounts.
He neglected to include a building in the Los Olivos Avenue of Gamarra Angelica
and two blocks of land in the Lima suburb of La Molina. Yesterday, in a telephone
interview with OjoPúblico, the mayor acknowledged that he had owned these
properties for the last fifteen years, although since 2013 the public records have shown
only the name of his wife. "Yes, I have six properties. Everything that she has is mine
(...) Many people have known for years that these assets belong to me," he said.
Felipe Castillo, a doctor and a clinic owner, faces trial for the diversion of PEN
16.6 million for social projects in his municipality towards the construction of a
university where he sought to become rector. The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor for Lima
North has asked for this case that he receive nine years in prison.
Systematic lies
The mayor of San Juan de Lurigancho, Carlos Burgos, lied about the property he
owned in six successive sworn statements submitted to the Comptroller. Upon
assuming the position of mayor in 2007, Burgos valued his assets at PEN 778,490.
This included a house in the Villa Garden housing estate of San Luis with a value of
PEN 416,000 soles, a utility vehicle valued at PEN 78,720 and a total of PEN 182,330
in the category 'other', protected in bank accounts. However, the mayor did not report
his shares in three companies of which even now he is General Manager: Boga
Advertising and General Services, Intermovil and Publibur.
Between 2008 and 2012, Burgos declared his only home to be in San Luis, but
understated its value by PEN 129,000. The last time he presented a sworn
declaration to the Comptroller, on 31 January 2012, the mayor indicated his wealth to
be PEN 282,432. That is, it decreased by 65% compared to the PEN 778,490 he had
declared in 2007. But this "impoverishment" existed only on paper.
The Comptroller did not detect his omissions and only early last year, following a
complaint from a congressman, the National Prosecutor's Office opened an
investigation for embezzlement. The first reports revealed that the fortune of Burgos,
who is also indicted for money laundering, exceeded PEN 10 million exclusive of what
was found in the name of his alleged front men. The mayor created six companies
after coming to office in 2007 and through them moved significant amounts of money.
In addition, Carlos Burgos, who insists on seeking reelection on behalf of the
Solidaridad Nacional party despite the challenge to his candidacy by the JNE
(National Elections Jury), has been unable to explain to prosecutors the origin of PEN
739,000 in financial transactions.
His colleague from San Bartolo and fellow party member Jorge Luis Barthelmess,
who also is running for reelection, has only submitted a sworn declaration twice
during eleven consecutive years of government. In 2010 he reported wealth of PEN
102,785, consisting of two blocks of land in Piura and a car. The next year, he declared
the same assets, but attributed them to a value of PEN 77,000, i.e. 25% less than
initially attributed.
The National Prosecutor`s Office is investigating Barthelmess for embezzlement
because of an alleged imbalance of PEN 200,000 on his income and expenses detected
in 2013. Barthelmess also faces allegations of money laundering and collusion against
the state. The latter relates to the sale of Ministry of Housing land based on a rule
that was repealed in order to favor a particular group of businessmen.
Ineffective controls
The cases of mayors Castillo, Burgos and Barthelmess illustrate a deeper problem:
the Comptroller lacks an effective system to corroborate the content of sworn
statements in order to prevent or detect illicit enrichment or other forms of corruption.
The manager of the Comptroller`s Department of Corruption Prevention,
Fernando Ortega, is in charge of receiving and inspecting each year more than 40,000
sworn statements from government officials, including mayors, but lacks a team of
experts dedicated to comparing the statements with reality. OjoPúblico wanted to
know the reasons for this, but Ortega refused to be interviewed for this story.
The Comptroller does not cross-check its information even with the state’s own
databases, such as the one held by National Superintendence of Public Registries
(Sunarp). Nor does it work in coordination with the Office of Illicit Enrichment
attached to the office of Attorney General, Carlos Ramos. As serious, during the
thirteen years in which the law of sworn statements has been in effect, there is no
record whatsoever of the Comptroller having applied the intended administrative
sanctions (ranging from a verbal or written reprimand and suspension without pay, to
dismissal from the position) against those who refuse to submit these documents. The
Penal Code also does not punish this omission.
Recent legal changes approved in January this year give the Comptroller greater
sanctioning powers, but undermine the state`s transparency policy, because most of
the contents of the sworn statements have become confidential. The publicly available
section will from now on be approved by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers
(PCM) under the new regulation. "This is contrary to Articles 40 and 41 of the
Constitution, which require that state officials make sworn statements of their wealth
and that all content is made public. A tendency towards secrecy has now been
legalized", points out constitutional lawyer, Roberto Pereyra.
Those saved
If public access to the sworn statements were to be cut, people would not know
that, for example, Oscar Benavides Majino, Solidaridad Nacional Party candidate for
re-election as mayor of Ate, has reported himself this year as having shed all his
Between 2003 and 2006, Benavides, owner of a funeral home, declared a fortune of
PEN 4,412,400, consisting of a house in Ate, four shops in La Victoria and Lince, four
blocks of land in Surco, San Juan de Lurigancho and La Molina, two crematoriums
and five trucks. But in 2011 when he returned to the office, he did not again record
these assets. He reported only his home in Ate, valued at PEN 200 thousand.
In his sworn declaration this year, the mayor declared only his wealth to be his
public and private sector salaries, of PEN 9,750 and PEN 30,000 respectively. The
Public Prosecutor's Office investigated him for embezzlement and other corruption
offenses during the last three years, but the cases were closed. The same fate befell
the allegations of money laundering and embezzlement against the mayor of Pueblo
Libre, Rafael Santos Normand, who reduced his stated wealth by 49% between 2007
and 2013.
When he first took office Santos reported the total value of his fortune as PEN
862,000. This amount comprised an apartment in San Isidro, three blocks of land in
Cañete, two trucks and PEN 576,000 in the financial system. But last year he claimed
to have wealth of only PEN 432,747.
Although he has added a house in Pueblo Libre to his property portfolio, his
savings in the financial system dropped to PEN 6,500 in his sworn declaration. Rafael
Santos is running for a third consecutive term in office in Pueblo Libre and belongs to
the Partido Popular Cristiano.
Mayors Alfredo Valcárcel (Chaclacayo), Ricardo Castro (San Luis), Marco Alvarez
(San Borja) and Enrique Peramas (Rimac) complete the list of authorities who reduced
their wealth during their tenures. All seek re-election in the October 5 elections.