©Reuters. Disposal of shares puts Inassa’s expropriation in Colombia under discussion
Barranquilla (Colombia), Jan 24 (.).- The case of Triple A, a public service company in northern Colombia linked to Canal de Isabel II, and whose expropriation process due to a corruption scandal began in 2018, has returned to discussion after the sale of 34% of the company’s shares to third parties.
In an operation that has been questioned by political sectors, the Special Assets Company (SAE), an entity that manages assets subject to asset forfeiture (expropriation), awarded, without a prior selection process, that portion of Triple A shares to private partners, close to the Mayor’s Office of Barranquilla.
Triple A, which provides water, sewage and garbage collection services to more than two million inhabitants of the Colombian Atlantic coast, had Interamericana de Servicios SA (Inassa), a subsidiary of Canal Isabel II, as its majority shareholder, which also had with public service companies in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Haiti.
However, in October 2018, after the corruption scandal of the so-called Lezo case in Spain was uncovered, which affected Inassa, the Colombian government intervened and the Attorney General’s Office seized actions for 202,000 million pesos (about 61.3 million dollars). of that time) that that company had in Triple A, whose assets entered the process of domain extinction.
The Colombian Prosecutor’s Office considered that directors of Inassa and Triple A irregularly appropriated 60 million euros under the pretext of paying for technical advice that was not done.
For this case, the manager of Triple A Ramón Navarro Pereira was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and the Prosecutor’s Office also ordered sanctions for seven other directors and former directors of Triple A, several of them Spanish.
According to the Mayor’s Office of Barranquilla, with the sale to third parties of 34% of the shares of Triple A, for 565,000 million pesos (about 142 million dollars), the city, “without putting a single peso”, recovered the management of the public service company whose shareholding control (85%) was in the 90s, before the entry of Inassa.
“It is a transparent operation, the best business that Barranquilla has done in its life and, in addition, it gives us the opportunity to say that Barranquilla can finally have its own public company,” said Mayor Jaime Pumrejo, quoted in a statement, after that the operation of the SAE was published by the portals “La Silla Vacía” and “Primera Página”.
The operation was carried out through the figure of early alienation through the public lighting company of Barranquilla, whose partners are the municipality, with 65%, and private partners (34%).
With that figure, the private ones put the money without this implying ownership of the alienated shares, and their profits are obtained through the future profits of the Triple A.
The Spanish ambassador to Colombia, Joaquín de Arístegui, told Efe that the diplomatic mission is following this case closely, as it does with all Spanish companies, to help in any way possible to solve their problems.
“The situation at the moment is one of monitoring and accompanying the case,” he said.
The ambassador added that “Colombia and Spain have provided themselves with very advanced channels to analyze situations and resolve controversies, ranging from informal cases to consultations, and we also have an institutional framework through agreements for the reciprocal promotion and protection of state-of-the-art investments” to solve them “in an efficient, fast and transparent way”.
“This is the case of investments such as the one Isabel II made in her day, which has procedures and mechanisms that when the Spanish company, if it decides, wants to activate, they will continue their normal course by fulfilling a series of requirements; it is a question that the Spanish company has to decide if it considers that at any time any right or claim of its own has been impaired,” he added.
The process has not yet concluded with a sentence, so in practice the shares continue to belong to Inassa, but the repurchase of shares through the early disposal of assets is one more step towards definitive expropriation.