Panama Papers: Ecuadorian President's Fugitive Cousin Used Shell Firm to Buy North Miami Beach Home

When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists leaked the Panama Papers this past April 3, it offered a glimpse into the shadowy world of shell companies. More than 11 million files from law firm Mossack Fonseca showed celebrities, criminals, heads of state, and politicians from across the globe setting up virtually untraceable offshore companies, often to shield money from taxes. 

Given such a huge trove of data, journalists are still unpacking all the names in there. And among those with Miami ties who haven't gotten much ink yet are Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's cousin, Pedro Miguel Delgado Campana, and David Richard Sparkles, the son of a former Bermuda governor.  

According to leaked documents posted on the web, both men list addresses in Miami, and Correa's cousin — who fled his homeland under a cloud of controversy — bought a home in Miami using a shell firm

Campana was once head of the Ecuador Central Bank but was fired by his cousin after admitting to falsifying academic credentials to obtain a business degree from an Ecuadorian university. He fled to the U.S. in 2013 and settled in Miami.

The Panama Papers suggest one reason why: In October 2012, before he left Ecuador, Campana and his wife, Maria Endara Blavijo, then consul of Ecuador in Miami, used AustroBank Panama., a company traced to the firm Mossack Fonseca, to purchase a home on NE 214th Terrace in North Miami Beach for $190,000. 

In the years since he left for Miami, Campana was tried in Ecuador for embezzlement. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced to eight years. Ecuadorian authorities are seeking extradition. 

Correa has distanced himself from his cousin, calling him a "scoundrel" while investigating the purchase of the home. Correa, however, says he won't prosecute Campana over the shell-company home purchase because the deal occurred in Miami, according to El Nuevo Herald

Then there's Sharples, whose mother is sitting UK politician Pamela Sharples, who serves in the House of Lords. Sharples' father was former Bermuda Gov. Richard Sharples, who was fatally shot on the governor's compound in March 1973. 

The leak shows that, in 1995, Pamela Sharples became the sole shareholder of Nunswell Investments Limited, a company registered in the Bahamas that's connected to Mossack Fonseca.

Her son David became a co-shareholder and director of the company in 2000. According to a company document included in the leak, he listed the address 200 Ocean Lane Dr. in Key Biscayne as recently as 2012. According to the ICIJ, she once used her official Parliamentary email address to communicate with Mossack Fonseca about the possibility of postponing the payment of taxes on a distribution from her Nunswell account. 

In the British media, Sharples has claimed innocence. Here's what her attorneys told the Argus in the UK.
In response, the law firm handling Sharples' affairs said that she became a director of Nunswell in 2000 and that the company was registered in the United Kingdom in the same year and now pays taxes to the British government.

The law firm wrote that the House of Lords "has been notified of Baroness Sharples' oversight in registering her interest as a Director of Nunswell Investments Limited" and that she receives "no remuneration ... nor any income or capital from that company."

Her son is a director and is a shareholder of the company on behalf of a trust, "not on a personal basis."
There are perfectly legitimate reasons to set up a shell company, and Sharples and her Miami-based son might have one. But Correa's cousin — facing charges in his homeland — is perhaps a more telling example of why Mossack Fonseca had so many clients, even if the Ecuadorian president says there's nothing fishy about his Miami home purchase. 

Sharples and Campana didn't immediately respond to New Times' emailed requests for comment about the leak. We'll update this post if they do.