Local May 13, 2017 | 2:53 pm

Panama Papers: Dominican Republic ‘subway czar’ fired

Santo Domingo.- In a bombshell announcement, president Danilo Medina Friday night fired Diandino Peña, head of the agency in charge of transport including the subway lines (Opret), just four days after a devastating interview that showed him unable to explain a “vast emporium” of mostly shell companies, uncovered in the Panama Papers.

Peña had been the architect behind the construction and operation of the Santo Domingo Metro, whose more than US$2.0 billion price tag makes it Dominican Republic’s most ambitious infrastructure work.

The executive order firing the official and which also names Manuel Saleta to replace Peña was tweeted by the Presidency four days after investigative journalist Alicia Ortega published the interview which rocked the country.

Ortega’s interview came after on a nine-month investigation, during which she had access to a dearth of documents related to companies, investments and the use of front men linked to Peña.

The documents form part of the Panama Papers, which caused an international uproar, which lists politicos, entertainers and royalty, conducting transactions to dodge taxes and conceal investments.

Probe

In her El Informe program on Monday, Ortega reported that Peña had concealed documents which show that he’s the main beneficiary and legal representative of a “vast emporium” of at least 29 companies, which includes 15 registered abroad and 14 in the Dominican Republic, “many of which would be related to each other through multi-million dollar transactions of transfers of shares, assets and cash.”

According to Ortega, 25 of the 29 companies were created after Peña became a government official.

And although most of these corporations are active at present, the former official stated that they don’t conduct transactions.

Vendetta

Just one day prior to the firing, pundit Julito Hazim said the interview is part of a push to discredit former president Leonel Fernandez, by attacking Peña, one of his closest collaborators. “Let’s be clear, the idea is to push dirt on the Santo Domingo Metro, the crowning achievement of Fernandez’s governments.”

As Public Works Secretary in Fernandez’s first term in office (1996-2000), Peña had promoted the construction of tunnels and overpasses to expedite Santo Domingo’s traffic.

In 2000, Peña and other officials were charged with embezzling more than RD$1.0 billion through a government plan to create employment known as PEME, but charges were dropped in 2007.

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