Hugo Jinkis and Mariano Jinkis did not respond to SZ and ICIJ’s request for comment on the allegations.
The Panama Papers now reveal that Damiani’s law firm was involved from the time the first Cross Trading company was founded in Niue in 1998 until the Nevada firm was dissolved in 2015. Email correspondence suggests that he personally intervened whenever he felt that a client’s confidentiality was at risk.
In one instance, when Mossfon employees opened an envelope with sensitive documents sent to the attention of Cross Trading, Damiani promptly emailed Mossfon headquarters in Panama to complain. He was also apparently copied into important email exchanges between his own law firm and Mossfon. Contract documents were thus also sent to him, meaning he could have been aware of the Jinkis’s activities. Client advisors at Mossfon also knew who they were dealing with. In an email, the Jinkis were described as clients who expected a “special confidentiality concept”. Juan Pedro Damiani organized this system of confidentiality.
Let’s suppose that Damiani knew nothing about the Jinkis’ business practices until they were indicted in the United States. Even if this were the case, the Uruguayan lawyer should have at least disclosed his involvement to FIFA at that point. According to SZ information, Damiani still hadn’t done this at the beginning of April 2016. FIFA has declined to comment on the matter. Damiani has also left the questions about his involvement with the Jinkis unanswered.
The Damiani case is especially delicate, as the Uruguayan lawyer appears to be involved in both sides of the corruption scandal.
Damiani’s law firm not only helped set up shell companies for the parties charged with paying bribes, but also for those who allegedly received them. Starting at end of the 1990s, he worked for Eugenio Figueredo, 84, the former FIFA vice president. Figueredo has links to several offshore companies that Mossfon set up, complete with sham directors that concealed the companies’ true owners. Damiani’s law firm managed seven of these companies, which owned a chunk of real estate. As recently as February 2015, a power of attorney was granted to Figueredo’s wife power of attorney, which authorized her to act in the name of one of the companies. This company has since become the subject of a Uruguayan investigation.
Employees at Mossfon and Damiani’s law firm didn’t seem troubled by their customers’ questionable business ethics until Figueredo was arrested in Zurich on May 27, 2015. As the Panama Papers show, the next day a series of nervous emails were exchanged, having the sham directors resign at Figueredo’s companies and revoking his wife’s power of attorney. A few days later, in June 2015, the head of the Mossfon compliance department wrote an internal email wondering whether Figueredo’s properties may have been bought with money related to the FIFA issue. She asked: “Do we have any evidence of this in the documents regarding the company?”
By the end of 2015, Figueredo had been extradited to Uruguay. Over the course of questioning, he apparently admitted to having accepted bribes, according to a report published in the Uruguayan weekly Busqueda, which gained access to the transcripts of Figueredo’s interrogation. The report states that Figueredo estimated the amount he received to about USD 50,000 per month. He also supposedly disclosed how he had reinvested the money by combining legal and illegal income to purchase real estate located mainly in Uruguay. Figueredo apparently explained that Panamanian companies purchased the real estate for him, and that Damiani’s law firm handled business with these companies.
In January 2016, Damiani testified at the Figueredo trial in Montevideo. However, he only mentioned three offshore companies that he helped set up, and not all seven that appear in the Panama Papers.
He claimed that his law firm had never received payment from Figueredo, and that he “never hid any goods.” What is more, he stated that his law firm had already provided investigators with “what little information” it had about the companies.
As the Panama Papers show, Damiani may have had more information than he claimed. In fact, his law firm sent a very detailed list of the shell companies’ assets to Mossfon at their request, which included various real estate properties and a bank account. The email of May 29, 2015 also referred to six companies, not three.
In response to SZ and ICIJ’s request for comment in March, a spokesperson for Damiani explained that he was only able to provide limited information in light of ongoing investigations. He stated that Damiani had, however, informed the authorities and the FIFA ethics committee.
A spokesman for the FIFA ethics committee has confirmed this. However, he also stated that Damiani first informed the committee of his business relationship with Figueredo on March 18, 2016, one day after SZ had sent him a request for comment. According to the spokesperson, the ethics committee launched a preliminary investigation the next day to clarify the circumstances.
The law firm Mossack Fonseca commented: "We have not the slightest indication that any company
formed through his offices has or had any owners with any links to
improprieties of any sort."
Juan Pedro Damiani, the ethics watchdog, is now himself now under his colleagues’ scrutiny.
Contributor: Catherine Boss