Argentina’s Energy Minister Juan Jose Aranguren has sold off his stocks in oil giant Shell, estimated to be worth US$1.16 million, after opposition figures accused him of making money off major hikes in the price of gasoline.
President Mauricio Macri confirmed the sale on Tuesday during a Business and Investment Forum in Buenos Aires.
The State’s Attorney Carlos Stornelli is currently investigating whether Aranguren profited from the highly unpopular increases in gas prices as he led the Ministry of Energy, given his role as public official as well as shareholder of Shell’s operation in the South American country.
Aranguren is also under investigation over allegations that he decided to stop buying cheaper gas from Bolivia to import a more expensive product from Chile, in direct benefit for the oil company.
Aranguren (2ns R) during a speech by President Macri. | Photo: AFP
"That everyone speaks about it in media every day, I don't see it as pressure, but as an intrusion on free will that we all have," said Aranguren during the forum. "But the decision I made was done without any pressure."
According to Macri, Shell's activity in Argentina "is irrelevant to its global activity."
"But still Mr. Aranguren made the gesture and disposed of the actions because he, like most of us who are in this, want to help Argentines do better, especially those who have less," said Macri.
Macri also said he wants an Argentina with "transparency and ethics."
The Anti-Corruption Office, part of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, recommended last Monday that Aranguren eliminate any links he might have to Shell to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
Aranguren joined the Argentine Shell subsidiary in 1979, and was president of the company from 2003 to June 2015, six months before entering Macri’s government.