Release: Patron Papers (500 MB)
Reports from Paraguay's financial intelligence unit, from 2022. In Aug. 2023, the Public Ministry tried to deanonimize members of the press for reporting on this data.
This release includes documents from Seprelad, Paraguay's Secretariat for the Prevention of Money or Property Laundering. The reports became known as the Patron Papers. The collection includes an investigation into tobacco smuggling and payments made to public officials by companies linked to the former president of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, who is still the leader of the Colorado political party. Current Paraguayan president Santiago Peña (Colorado Party) is considered a protegé of Cartes. Peña’s name also appears in the leak of Seprelad documents.
ABC Color and Ultima Hora first published selections and analysis of these Seprelad reports in May 2022, after Seprelad forwarded their investigation to the Paraguayan prosecutor. The full documents have never been published, before today. The Seprelad reports were also submitted to the United States Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The leak of the financial intelligence unit’s documents to the press “resulted in FinCEN cutting off information to Seprelad” according to a report by Bixal.
Cartes’s corruption is considered an open secret, and prosecutors in Panama and in Brazil have previously opened investigations. In July 2022, the United States’ state department designated Cartes and his children for involvement in significant corruption. In practice, this means Cartes and his three adult children cannot get visas to travel to the US. The source sent Patron Papers documents to DDoSecrets, in part because Paraguayan authorities have not laid any charges for corruption against Cartes.
The Committee to Protect Journalists fills out the timeline:
In January 2020, Cartes was accused in Brazil of helping alleged moneylender Dario Messer flee to Paraguay. In January 2022, Cartes was denounced before the Paraguayan Secretariat for the Prevention of Money or Asset Laundering for alleged money laundering, illegal enrichment, and false statements. In January 2023, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Cartes.
In March 2023, the United States designated three other Paraguayan public officials and restricted their ability to travel to the US. In August 2023, the Paraguay Public Ministry opened an investigation into the leak, not into the corruption. Journalists who wrote stories about the Seprelad documents at Ultima Hora and ABC Color recieved summons to provide evidence to the police. A representative of Ultima Hora told the Committee to Protect Journalists:
“But why are they asking for the name of the journalist? We usually don’t sign stories that can put journalists at risk … It is crystal clear this is to intimidate us.”
The Paraguayan Union of Journalists has also condemned the legal process against the journalists.
The DDoSecrets release this week also includes never-before-seen documents from Seprelad that were not in the 2022 leak. Patron Papers can be downloaded in full from the torrents or from our data server.