Jorge Horacio Brito
Jorge Horacio Brito (born July 23, 1952) is a prominent Argentine banker and businessman, who has been implicated in Boudougate, also known as the Ciccone case, a political and financial scandal that erupted in February 2012. He is said to have great influence in the economy and politics of his country.
Brito is the CEO of Argentina's largest bank, Macro Bank (Banco Macro), and is the richest banker in the country, with a fortune of 700 million US dollars. Identified by the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires in cables written in 2008 and 2009, and later made public by Wikileaks, as “Kirchner's banker,” Brito has been described as “an essential figure in the ruling party,” although his relationship with current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been widely characterized as being less intimate than that with her late husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner.
Although Brito apparently played a central role in the irregular activities that led to the Boudougate scandal, he has not been charged with a crime or called as a witness, at least in part, allegedly, because of his intimate involvement in and knowledge of the Kirchner family finances and his personal connection to the judge in the trial, Ariel Lijo.
Early life and education
Jorge Brito was born to an upper-class family, in Salta in 1952 and was raised by his mother, who was widowed in 1962.
He founded Anglia, a brokerage firm, in 1976 and, in 1985, purchased a competing brokerage, Financiera Macro, forming Macro Bank (Banco Macro). He was named Chairman of the Board of Directors in June 1988 and cultivated close relationships with leading officials in the governments of both Raúl Alfonsín and Carlos Menem. During the Menem presidency, Brito came under criticism for allegations of favorable treatment for one of Macro's largest borrowers, leather manufacturer Emir Yoma (Menem's brother-in-law), particularly after Macro's 1995 rescue by the Central Bank of Argentina. Under Brito's leadership, Macro Bank grew steadily with the acquisition of numerous provincial banks privatized during the 1990s, including the Bank of Salta (his native province) and of neighboring Tucumán Province. It became the nation's largest domestically-owned private bank. He is the chairman of Macro Bank's board of directors, its Chief Executive Officer, and a member of its executive committee and senior credit committee.
Macro Bank participated in the construction of Madero Center, a Buenos Aires apartment complex in which Brito owns an apartment, as do his son, President Cristina Kirchner, Vice President Amado Boudou, and partners in the firm London Supply, which was implicated in Boudougate.
Other professional activities
Brito became chairman of the Argentine Banking Association (ADEBA), in 2003. He also serves as chairman of the board of directors of YPF, long the largest petroleum producer and refiner in Argentina. Brito was among those who expressed interest in the purchase of 20% of the Madrid-based Repsol's ownership of the former state oil concern, when these shares were offered for sale in 2007.
Another of Brito's significant business interests is in real estate. His Vizora Developers purchased a prime, 2.5-hectare (6 acre) property in San Isidro (a northern suburb of Buenos Aires) for the construction of a condominium complex and an 11-hectare (28 acre) lot in Buenos Aires' burgeoning Puerto Madero area, where the group was involved in a US$160 million project. He is the owner of luxury hotels, country clubs, and other such businesses.
Brito also serves as chairman of the boards of directors of Banco del Tucuman S.A., Inversora Juramento S.A., and Banco Privado de Inversiones S.A.
Brito is viewed as having long pursued a pragmatic approach to Argentina's fast-changing political panorama, and has been a vocal supporter of Kirchnerism since it advent in 2003, endorsing President Cristina Kirchner's candidacy in 2007. He has been described as “Kirchner's banker.” According to one source, Brito “always knew how to be close to power and to do business with them”
Brito “was the first banker who approached Kirchner before the end of 2003,” according to Urgente 24 in a 2014 article. He explained to Kirchner that his obligation as a banker was to help the government out of the financial crisis. Brito used his firm Facimex to carry out various financial operations on behalf of the late President Néstor Kirchner as well as in the irregular financial arrangements that later became the subject of the Boudougate investigations. Invernes SA, of which Brito is a director, was closely involved with Ernesto Clarens, who managed “confidential financial activities” for Néstor Kirchner.
A June 2014 Seprin article called Brito "the preferred banker of the government," stating that although he had been accused of "causing devaluations," he still had "the confidence of the president," namely Cristina Fernández, because Brito was in a position to "sink the reputation" of Néstor Kirchner. Brito is said to have been less intimate with Cristina Kirchner than he was with her late husband, however. At one point she became convinced that he was favoring his longtime friend Sergio Massa over her as a president candidate. She reportedly “shook up” Brito on July 31, 2014, when she accused him, though not by name, of posing as a “savior of his country,” who not only lacked a horse, unlike most heroes, but also lacked “honesty.”
Conflicts with Guillermo Moreno
Guillermo Moreno, Argentina's Minister of Domestic Commerce and an “eternal enemy” of Planning Minister Julio De Vido, a longtime friend of Brito's, accused Brito of involvement in the “gray market” for dollars. Moreno has reportedly frowned for a long time on Amado Boudou's close friendship and business involvement with Brito.
A June 2014 article described a meeting between Brito and Moreno that “ended badly.” Moreno wanted Brito to help him finance a new bond issue, and Brito not only turned him down but explained that it was impossible under current market conditions for Moreno's project to prosper. Immediately after the conversation, Moreno made a remark to a foreign banker about Brito ending up “in the cooler with Boudou.”
Brito owns a bank in the Bahamas, which is officially a branch of Macro Bank, and which changed its name from Pasó de Sud Bank & Trust Company to Macro Bank Limited. This Bahamas bank held at least US$10.4 million for the firm Austral Construcciones, owned by “Kirchner businessman” Lázaro Báez, the central figure in the “K-Money” scandal. The bank's activities in this matter were investigated by judicial officials in Liechtenstein for corruption, but the investigation was terminated when a firm registered in the Seychelles, Trade 24 Limited, assumed the blame for any irregularities.
A 2014 report noted that Carlos Adrián Calvo López, an “extremely low-profile executive at Macro Bank,” who answered to Brito, had taken part “in some of the most controversial operations in Argentina in the past decades,” traveling repeatedly to Argentina from his offices in Uruguay with “suitcases full of money” that was used to capitalize Badial, a construction firm owned by Lázaro Báez.
It has been stated that while “ Báez is the right arm” of the Kirchners “in the public works,” Brito is “the ruling family's finance arm.”
Brito has been described as “holding the secrets to the Ciccone case,” otherwise known as Boudougate. According to La Nación, Brito “played a key role” in the resurrection of Ciccone Calcográfica, Argentina's most important printing firm, which in its new incarnation was renamed Compañía de Valores Sudamericana (American Securities Company), or CVS. This operation was essentially a secret profit-making operation with then Minister of the Economy Amado Boudou, now Vice President of Argentina, at its helm. Brito arranged for Macro Bank to provide funds, credits, and personnel that enabled CVS to re-establish itself, while Boudou used his power and influence to arrange for a debt moratorium and new government printing contracts for CVS.
Other participants in this operation included an officer of Macro Bank, Máximo Lanusse, who became the nominal head of CVS, and attorney Alejandro Vandenbroele, who became the nominal head of the shell company, The Old Fund, through which Boudou and Brito purchased Ciccone Calcográfica. Vandenbroele's wife, Laura Muñoz, triggered the Boudougate scandal by identifying her husband as a front man for Boudou. Brito reportedly used his firm Facimex to channel $2.4 million from a “mysterious” Uruguayan firm, Dusbel SA, to The Old Fund.Perfil reported in November 2012 that authorities looking into the complex “financial framework that was used to cover up the identity of the real owners of Ciccone” were now adding “two big boys” to their investigation: Brito and former banker Raul Moneta.
In December 2013, Brito, represented by attorney Ernesto Lopez, filed a brief in the Boudougate case and offered to collaborate on the record with Federal Judge Ariel Lijo, who was trying the case. This offer came after Brito had learned through the media that Jorge Di Lello, the prosecutor in the case, was planning to call him to testify in the case.
A June 2014 report stated that Boudou had mentioned Brito in a written statement to Judge Lijo outlining the money trail in the Ciccone case. It was noted that in addition to being the owner of Macro Bank, Brito was connected to the case through his association with the Cooperativa de Crédito Marítima del Sur Limitada, through which 30 million pesos had been channeled to CVS between July 2011 and March 2012 via The Old Fund. Boudou was dissuaded by Julio de Vido and others from calling Brito as a witness, however, because of his intimate involvement in the finances of the Kirchner family.
Judicial commentator Néstor Espósito stated in June 2014 that Lijo and Brito shared a friendship, citing a photograph in which “they are seen sharing a very relaxed social time” at a wedding. The headline of a July 2014 article in Urgente 24 stated that the “big question” in the Boudougate case was whether Lijo would call Brito to testify. “Again and again,” stated the article, “the name of Jorge Brito appears in the lawsuit.” Although Brito, stated Urgente 24, claimed not to have placed money in The Old Fund, he was implicated in more than one way. One complication, however, was that Lijo's brother Alfredo was an “intimate friend of the banker,” with whom he shared a love of horses. Urgente 24 further noted that Macro Bank had reported a suspicious transaction to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) when Alejandro Vandenbroele transferred over 1.8 million pesos to the firm London Supply, but when Di Lello wanted Brito to testify about this matter, Lijo refused to call him as a witness.
Brito's son, also named Jorge, is also a banker who is involved in much of his father's business activity. In June 2012 it was reported that he was under investigation for possible involvement in Boudougate. He shares a friend, Miguel “Mickey” Castellano, shareholder of London Supply, with Cristina Kirchner. London Supply is one of the firms implicated in the rescue of CVS from bankruptcy. According to the June 2012 report, Brito senior forbade his son to run for president of River, a Buenos Aires sporting club, in 2013.
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