Thursday, November 16, 2017

Legionaries deny illegal offshore dealings indicated by Paradise Papers

MEXICO CITY — The Legionaries of Christ say a series of offshore accounts opened by its disgraced founder — and exposed by investigative journalists examining a cache of documents shining a light on tax havens — have been closed.

The order added that the accounts never violated any laws and did not handle the vast sums of money alleged in the investigation.

"The offshore entities that existed with some relation to the congregation and its members were operated legally and never were companies used for illicit activities, as some journalistic articles affirm," the Legionaries said in a statement.

The statement also attempted to pin the blame for the accounts' existence on the wealthy order's founder, the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who led a double life in violation of Catholic teaching, included fathering children and sexually abusing seminarians. Maciel died in 2008 after being ordered to lead a life of prayer and penance, and the Legionaries of Christ was put under Vatican leadership, which started the process of cleaning up the order's finances and closing the offshore companies.

The order previously had companies established in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Channel Islands, Panama and Luxembourg.

The revelations of the Legionaries activities came from the so-called Paradise Papers, in which a consortium of international journalists combed through a trove of leaked information on offshore companies.

An investigation by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, a Mexican anti-graft group, showed the Legionaries of Christ had established a Bermuda-based company called International Volunteer Services.

In its statement, the order said International Volunteer Services "did not handle economic funds."

"The educational projects related to the congregation operate with transparency, have their accounts audited and observe the legal and fiscal provisions of their respective countries," the Legionaries statement said. "They do not have any relation or operations with offshore companies."

Journalist Raul Olmos, author of the investigation, told Catholic News Service that documents cast doubt on the Legionaries' statement.

"These universities generated a lot of money," he said. "We had access to the financial statements of the Legionaries of Christ's universities, and they generated $300 million per year."  (more...)

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