La Opinión: Court Rules Against Pollo Campero Owners

Yesterday I published a short blog post about important developments in one of my cases, involving allegations of tax fraud and money laundering involving high-profile Central American businessmen. I promise not to flood this mostly Russia blog with Latin America news today, but it’s important that I post this translation of a news article by La Opinión, a Spanish-language Daily based in Los Angeles. I continue to believe that there are some important comparative overlaps between Latin American nations and Russia in terms of deficient rule of law and a lack of accountability over security services. OK, thanks for reading, back to our regularly scheduled programming… pollocampero091108.jpg

Court Ruling Against Owners of Pollo Campero

A Bermudan Court Points at Two Shareholders of the Bosch-Gutierrez Group as Responsible for Fraud

Isaias Alvarado, La Opinion (9/11/08)

A tribunal in Bermuda ruled against two shareholders of the Bosch-Gutierrez business group (Multi-Inversiones) of Guatemala, owners of the fast food restaurant chain Pollo Campero, for the crime of fraud. The case LISA S.A. contra Leamington Reinsurance Company LTD y Avícola Villalobos is derived from a lawsuit which began nearly ten years ago in Guatemala and was transferred outside of this country in search of “impartiality” of judicial authorities, say lawyers on behalf of the plaintiff.

In the suit, Juan Arturo Gutierrez, one of the precursors of the popular chain, indicated that his partners Juan Luis Bosch and Dionisio Gutierrez Mayorga sold live chickens in this Central American country without reporting it to the authorities, investing the profits into a ghost company.Last week the Bermudan court determined that Gutierrez was defrauded only by the company Leamington Reinsurance for almost two million dollars, plus pre- and post-judgment interest at a rate of 7%.

“This latest decision from the Supreme Court of Bermuda represents a landmark victory in our long running struggle for rule of law and against impunity in Guatemala. For many years, my client has asked only one thing: that they be allowed to present their evidence of tax fraud before a fair court,” said Robert Amsterdam to La Opinion, the lawyer to Gutierrez.

The response from the defense of the Bosch-Gutierrez Group came quickly. Through a press release, they stressed that in reality the judge’s verdict found no liability on behalf of Avicola Villalobos, one of the accused companies.

“The Bermuda court rejected the allegations of fraud and money laundering against Avicola Villalobos acknowledging the prior payment of taxes in Guatemala in 1999,” the document insists.

On the other hand, it adds that complaints presented before the Public Ministry in August of 2001 against the same parties were dismissed because there was no proof of tax evasion, concealment of assets, or any other administrative violation.

And the statement concludes: evidence presented during the proceedings in Bermuda also prove that the company has paid all of its taxes due in Guatemala.La Opinion attempted to communicate directly with the defense of the Gutierrez-Bosch group, but did not obtain a response.

Through Molinos Modernos, one of its principal companies, the corporation dominates the local wheat, corn, flour, cereals, and other food markets. Its presence extends to countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Through Avicola Villalobos, it controls the chicken production for leading brands such as Pollo Rey, Toledo, Pollo Indio, Pollo Cacique and Pollo Criollo. The flagship of the business is Pollo Campero, which has 285 fast food restaurant locations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panamá, Ecuador, Spain, Indonesia, China and the United States. In 2009, their expansion plans include Bahrain, Dubai and Oman.

The Pollo Campero brand was founded in 1971. They opened their first restaurant in the United States in 2002. Since then, the company has inaugurated 38 restaurants here. According to the company website, their expansion plans include franchises in Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Phoenix, and New Jersey.