In the fight between Argentina and the U.S. hedge funds that hold the country’s debt, the South American country can’t seem to catch any breaks. And the latest development means that one hedge fund, NML Capital Ltd., has more ammo than ever before to seize assets from the bankrupt country.
U.S. District Judge Cam Ferenbach in Nevada has issued a ruling to help NML expose information about companies owned by an associate of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Argentine construction baron Lazaro Báez. NML hopes to seize assets held by Báez in order to cover its debts.
Argentina recently defaulted on its debts, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the country may not make bond payments to the U.S. unless it first pays back the money it owes to U.S. hedge funds. The country recently tried to pay some of its other debtors, but U.S. Judge Thomas Griesa rejected the plan, saying the country must pay holdout debtors as well.
One of those holdout debtors is NML. The hedge fund, started by U.S. billionaire Paul Singer, has attempted to seize other assets across the globe due to Argentina’s defaults, including a warship stationed in Ghana in 2012.
According to NML’s suit, these 123 companies owned by Báez may have stolen funds from the Argentine government. An Argentine TV show detailed an alleged embezzlement scheme which allowed Báez to launder $65 million out of the country. He is now being investigated by Argentine prosecutors for the act.
As a result, NML says, any funds from the government should be eligible to be seized as the hedge fund attempts to recover its money. Judge Ferenbach’s ruling forces the companies to open their books, revealing if they indeed stole money from the government.
“There is no doubt that the 123 companies are shell corporations,” the judge said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Similarly, there is no doubt that shell corporations are routinely formed to commit fraud.”