WASHINGTON – On Thursday, June 16, Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), David Cicilline (RI-01), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-09) sent a letter to President Biden urging him to press the US Departments of Justice and Treasury to investigate South Florida real estate property purchased by relatives and, in some cases companies, linked to former mayor and current presidential candidate in Colombia, Rodolfo Hernández.
The members of Congress refer to the Biden administration’s new “United States Strategy on Countering Corruption” and new Treasury Department rules to identify persons involved in all-cash purchases of real estate and to determine when property buys are for money laundering and tax shelter purposes.
The letter notes: “One of the two candidates in the run-off election, Rodolfo Hernández, is facing two judicial processes related to allegations of corruption during his time as mayor of Bucaramanga. The next court hearing date is July 21, 2022 meaning that, by the time the legal process moves forward, Colombian voters will have cast their ballots without knowing the outcome of these legal proceedings.”
The letter refers to a scandal surrounding Hernández from 2016 and 2017, when he was mayor of Bucaramanga, in which Hernández and his son, Luis Carlos Hernández Olivos, are alleged to have sought kickbacks in exchange for delivering a garbage collection contract to a private company called Vitalogic. While the scandal has been covered in Colombian and international media, “It has recently come to light that, at the same time that the contract process was taking place, the Hernández family purchased a number of homes in South Florida,” the letter states.
The members of Congress note that Hernández would not be the first South American president to use South Florida real estate as tax shelters. “These allegations are reminiscent of recent revelations that then-Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso purchased 144 properties in Broward and Miami Dade counties in Florida,” the letter states. “After his election, The Pandora Papers revealed that President Lasso had been hiding assets and avoiding taxes in US jurisdictions for years.”
The Pandora Papers, published in 2021, revealed that Florida is second only to South Dakota among US states being used as a tax shelter by criminals and some of the world’s wealthy elite.