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Friday, May 24 2019 @ 12:50 PM UTC

DGI Hits Eisenmann With $3 Million Dollar Tax Bill

Money Matters Two weeks after finishing the tax audit, the Department of Revenue (DGI) reported yesterday they have levied a fine of more than $3 million dollars against the company Desarrollo Golf Coronado, S.A., owned by the Eisenmann family. I. Roberto Eisenmann, the legal representative of the company and founder of the newspaper La Prensa, said he was notified by the DGI one day after the director of that entity, Luis Cucalón, said in the Panama America newspaper that no official figure had yet been established. According to Eisenmann, on 22 December 2011 DGI officials informed him that the audit had been finished, started eight months earlier after he gave an interview to journalist Alvaro Alvarado in which he criticized the president, Ricardo Martinelli.

When he was told the audit had been completed Eisenmann asked how much he could expect to pay and the officers responded it would be $1.5 million dollars. "Now the figure is doubled because I reacted. They were preparing the way so that today (yesterday) it would be $3 [million]," said Eisenmann. Interestingly, on 28 December, the Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu, told TVN that the DGI report indicated that Eisenmann's company owed somewhere between $2 million and $3 million dollars. The businessman reiterated it is clear the audit has been political, after the harsh criticism he has made against the government of Ricardo Martinelli. "Contrary to what they imagine, now I will speak more," he said.

The company's legal team, composed of seven lawyers, will present the petitions for reconsideration before the DGI, and if those petitions are refused, the say they will present an appeal before the Administrative Tax Tribunal. "I've been through these things before and am used to these battles and struggles. And I will fight with more strength and conviction," said Eisenmann. In his criticism, Eisenmann has described Martinelli as a "destroyer of institutions." "He is bossy. As a good autocrat businessman, for him everything is a transaction, and in this way he buys things, businesses and Deputies (in the National Assembly)," he said.

Yesterday president Ricardo Martinelli met with business leaders from the private sector in the presidency, but after the meeting he made no comment. Through a press release he said "the government must enforce the laws on the payment of taxes." The person who did speak to the press was the presidential spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho, who said the audit (of Eisenmann's business) is not a political persecution.

This newspaper (La Prensa - owned by Eisenmann) asked the director of the DGI to explain what taxes the company Desarrollo Golf Coronado failed to pay, but his response was: "We will gladly answer, but I am not accustomed to deal with cases in the press, the law forbids it, so I hope you will understand."

Businessmen asked Martinelli not to generalize - Representatives of business groups yesterday asked president, Ricardo Martinelli, during a meeting at the Palace of the Herons, to not make generalizations by calling them "empresaurios" (business dinosaurs) and "thieves" for allegedly not paying taxes. Anthony Fletcher, president of the National Business Council (Conep), said at the meeting, which he called "frank," the clarified with the president every point of his speech given before the National Assembly. "It is incorrect to say we are breaking the rules, particularly on the issue of taxes," he said. Martinelli, through a press release said there were no generalizations in his speech, and that he was specific in his approach. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: I think there are elements of truth on both sides of the equation in this case. First of all, there's no doubt that Eisenmann's business was targeted for political reasons because he is an outspoken critic of the Martinelli administration. He's a staunch supporter of Juan Carlos Varela and the political agenda of the Panameñista political party. He's also the founder of the La Prensa newspaper so therefore he has a voice and a platform from which to launch attacks and control the message. So, it simply makes sense that he was targeted for political reasons. Now, consider this. What if Eisenmann actually does owe back taxes. Martinelli's argument is that previous presidents have taken a "hands off" approach to making Eisenmann pay his fair share of taxes out of concern over what types of headlines will appear on the cover of the La Prensa newspaper every morning. Martinelli said "they're furious" because he's making them pay. In short Martinelli is also saying "I could care less, write whatever you want." And why not, because Eisenmann and La Prensa is already doing as much damage as they can anyway, so what does Martinelli have to lose? (Nothing).

Stop Whining - And Explain It In Court: And the whole thing with Eisenmann talking about how first it was $1.5 million and now it's $3 million or whatever - I would suggest that the average man on the street would simply want to see a clear and concise and fair and objective analysis of the books, and the taxes should be paid as required according to law. The Director of the DGI Luis Cucalón can't pull a number out of a hat or arbitrarily double or triple the taxes just because he feels like it - the amount of tax owed is established by law. All of these issues will eventually be discussed and decided in a court of law.

It's Both Political And Just: Anyway, in the end of the day - I think it's political, and I also think Eisenmann simply got caught. Pretty simple, on both sides. The rest is details. And when Eisenmann takes it to court he can expect to lose, because the decision will eventually wind up with the "Team Martinelli" Supreme Court. Case closed. There's an expression in Panamanian Spanish that roughly translates to "you wanted to be Carnival Queen - so shut up and wave." Meaning, Eisenmann decided to mix business and politics, so now his apparently questionable business practices are caught up in politics. And he's acting surprised and hurt? Why, when he's the one who decided to mix the two. Sorry, but on the street about 90%+ of the Panamanian people I've asked generally side with Martinelli and against Eisenmann in this case. The most common response is "it might be political, but he should have been paying if he owes the taxes..." And even more important, Martinelli wins politically because he's seen as not being afraid to go after the "rich fat cats" in Panama - who have traditionally been untouchable. Remember, on the bus there's only one bus owner but about 50 passengers. The bus driver might have the money, but the passengers vote. Martinelli has his eye on the political prize. In the 2014 elections the Panameñistas and Juan Carlos Varela will come in third place. That's the most important, very simple fact that matters most to Martinelli. Anyway, that's my analysis of this whole mess, for what it's worth. Let's see how this whole thing plays out in the courts (and in the headlines) as it moves through the system.

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