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Macri's Tax Amnesty Criminalizes Journalists Exposing Evaders

A state worker holds up a sign that reads "We don't have an account in Panama" during a protest against layoffs outside the Labor Ministry in Buenos Aires. | Photo: Reuters A state worker holds up a sign that reads "We don't have an account in Panama" during a protest against layoffs outside the Labor Ministry in Buenos Aires. | Photo: Reuters
Argentine journalists could face up to two years in prison if they leak or report the identities of those who will sign up for the government’s proposed tax amnesty program for an estimated US$500 billion in offshore assets, the Buenos Aires Herald reported Monday.

RELATED: Macri Backs Tax Breaks for the Rich, Layoffs for the Poor

According to the newspaper, the draft bill being debated in the country's Congress contains an article stating that “judges, judicial officials or employees at the (AFIP tax bureau) ... and third parties revealing or publishing documents or information in any way related to voluntary affidavits ... will be punished according to the dictates of Article 157 of the Penal Code.”

The mentioned penal code article deals with the violation of secrets and sets “one month to two year’s imprisonment” for offenders.

The bill also states that those referred to as third parties would be fined an amount “equivalent to the value of the funds being brought to the country (by those signing up to the tax amnesty programme),” the newspaper reported.

 

Late last month Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced an amnesty on an estimated US$500 billion of unregistered funds stashed abroad.

RELATED: Macri Wants Amnesty for Tax Dodgers, Like Himself

Under the amnesty, Argentines would pay 10 percent or 15 percent on freshly disclosed funds, depending on how long it takes them to make the payment, Reuters reported.

Money raised would help pay long-standing debts to pensioners and support an increase in pension payouts. The amnesty program is similar to one that was implemented in Chile a few years ago.

While the government says the anti-leak policy is to encourage more individuals to participate in the tax amnesty plan, experts say that part of the legislation is unconstitutional.

The draft bill “is worrisome from the point of view of freedom of expression, particularly when intertwined with the constitutional right to freedom of expression,” media specialist Martín Becerra, a professor at the universities of Buenos Aires (UBA) and Quilmes (UNQ), wrote in a column Sunday.

RELATED: 154,000 Argentine Workers Have Lost Their Jobs Under Macri

Meanwhile Christian Schwarz, a professor at the Argentine Catholic University (UCA), told the Buenos Aires Herald that requiring government officials to keep certain information confidential has a different legal standing from silencing the media when reporting on information that could be in the public’s interest.

“One thing is the State wanting to secure the confidentiality of tax amnesty participants. It may be convenient or not it’s a matter of debate,” Schwarz said. “But trying to impose fines on media outlets or journalists for publishing documents is a completely different thing.”

The law has sparked controversy also because Macri himself has money in tax havens and some opposition figures are arguing that Macri is trying to protect himself and others from facing scrutiny over billions of dollars in offshore accounts.

Days before announcing the program, Macri admitted he had US$18 million in tax havens after he repeatedly denied earlier allegations arising from being named in the Panama Papers.

Last modified onMonday, 06 June 2016 07:36

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