A luxury condo tied to a top aide of Argentina’s former president sold for $10.7 million earlier this month. The deal is part of a fire sale of related U.S. properties under investigation in Argentina.
The real estate empire — ranging from a strip mall bank branch in Kendall to a high-rise condo in Manhattan — was valued at nearly $65 million.
A federal prosecutor in Argentina began looking into the mysterious properties after they were linked to a maze-like offshore corporate structure controlled by Héctor Daniel Muñoz, the right-hand man of former president Néstor Kirchner.
The true owners of the properties have not been identified. But they could be feeling the heat: The condo at the Regalia tower in Sunny Isles Beach is the fifth property sold since the prosecutor opened an investigation last year.
Also sold: A CVS pharmacy building in Little Havana that traded for $13.1 million in July; bank branches in Pompano Beach and Kendall that sold for $5.8 million in August and $6.5 million in November, respectively; and a small unit at luxury tower Icon Brickell that sold for $320,000 in November.
It is sad to see the truth escaping.
Juan Manuel Pettigiani, Argentine federal prosecutor
But the inquiry now appears to be fizzling after the prosecutor, Juan Manuel Pettigiani, handed it to another government agency for further analysis in June, as required by Argentine law. Little progress has been made since then, Pettigiani said Monday.
"It's very sad that in my country activity that could be tied to public corruption is not of public interest,” he wrote in an email to the Miami Herald. “It is sad to see the truth escaping.”
Both Muñoz and Kirchner are dead. Kirchner’s wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who succeeded him as president, was recently indicted for corruption in Argentina. The name of current president Mauricio Macri also surfaced in the Panama Papers; he has denied any wrongdoing.
In the past, drug dealers and corrupt foreign officials have been busted buying expensive homes in the United States, leading to new federal regulations on money laundering in real estate.
Making a profit
The four-bedroom unit at the Regalia sold for the same price paid in 2014, when a company controlled by Muñoz associate Sergio Todisco bought the brand-new condo.
Breaking even on a luxe Miami condo might seem like a bad deal. But if Argentine pesos were changed into dollars and used to buy the condo in 2014, the math changes. The dollar has boomed in value against the peso since then. If the proceeds from the 2016 sale were converted back to pesos, the investment would have roughly doubled in value. Foreign investors routinely take advantage of such currency fluctuations to turn a profit.
The buyer of the Regalia unit is listed in Miami-Dade County property records as a company managed by Sean Sullivan of Boca Raton.
Three of the other properties also sold for an apparent loss — in dollars, at least.
$10.7 million Sale price for Regalia unit
A lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County accused the seller — Elizabeth Ortiz Municoy, Todisco’s ex-wife — of trying to hush up the pharmacy deal.
Municoy didn’t want “the CVS property listed for sale ... [and] ... and wanted to keep the sale of the CVS property confidential,” according to a civil complaint filed by another broker. In a legal response, Municoy’s attorney denied the charges and counter-sued for breach of contract.
Her Surfside-based realty firm also marketed the unit at the Regalia for sale, according to a Realtor’s database, asking $12.5 million in 2015 and $10.95 million last year.
Municoy’s involvement in that deal contradicts statements she previously made to the Herald. She consistently has denied playing a role in the real estate deals drawing scrutiny in Argentina.
A voice message left at her office Tuesday morning was not returned.
The properties still owned by the Argentine network include a bank branch in Miami Shores and luxury condo units in Brickell, Hollywood and Sunny Isles Beach.
Their total value? Nearly $10.3 million.