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Confiscation of Piero Coen's assets condemned, with warnings about "interests" in seizing his companies

Former presidential pre-candidates: Confiscation is unconstitutional and damages the confidence of national and foreign investors.

Piero Coen Ubilla

Nicaraguan businessman Piero Coen Ubilla, CEO of Grupo Coen. Photo: Coen Group

Octavio Enríquez

27 de junio 2023


Former presidential pre-candidates Juan Sebastián Chamorro and Félix Maradiaga condemned the confiscations ordered by Daniel Ortega's regime against Piero Coen Ubilla, one of the biggest business leaders in Nicaragua, and warned about the immediate consequences in the private sector and the economy.

Chamorro said that the confiscation of Coen's properties, confirmed by Coen himself in a statement, is a clear sign of the interest being shown by the dictatorship in the assets of business leaders, a scenario in which "not even their houses are safe," he added.

"In terms of the confiscations of companies, it's likely that there are economic interests behind the taking over of the companies, as well as of real estate," he warned.

Coen issued a statement on the afternoon of June 23, 2023 saying that Police officials and authorities from the Attorney General's office showed up at different properties registered in his name and that of his wife Jaffa Coen, to take possession of them based on the argument that they now belong to the State.

In the same statement, the businessman assured that he has not been a party to, nor has he been notified of, any judicial process against him, nor is there any crime of which he can be accused, "much less anything that threatens my country or Nicaraguan society."

Maradiaga also condemned the confiscation, emphasizing that private property is the pillar of the economic and social development of the country, and that respect for it is essential for the development of the nation.

"When the private property of entrepreneurs who generate employment is attacked, the confidence of national and foreign investors to invest is diminished. The poor are the most affected, as they need dignified and quality employment. The discouragement of investment is one of the main reasons for the increase in poverty," added Maradiaga.

The secret judicial process against Coen

When Coen denied that he had received notification of any judicial process against him, he alluded to the accusation filed on March 27, 2023 by the government in the Ninth Criminal District Hearing Court, overseen by Karen Chavarría, who has a record of persecuting political prisoners.

Coen was referring to a secret judicial process opened against the businessman, similar to what has happened in other cases against Ortega's critics. The case is registered under case number 005295-ORM4-2023-PN, a file that does not even specify the crime he is accused of and which was entered into the electronic system of the courts on June 22, 2023, only two days before the confiscation. 

Business sources consulted by CONFIDENCIAL explained that the businessman was indeed charged with "treason to the homeland", a crime that gave rise to the loss of his nationality and the appropriation of his assets, although none of those points were referred to by Coen in his statement.

Coen was the only major business leader who participated in the protest demonstrations against Ortega in April 2018, when government repression of the population caused hundreds of deaths. Since then, as a reprisal for his support of the citizen uprising, some of his properties have been invaded by land grabbers and he is the target of a hefty lawsuit promoted by professional boxer Román "Chocolatito" González, a recognized fan of the regime.

The declaration of "treason to the homeland" for the subsequent confiscation of the assets into the hands of the State is the same procedure that the justice system controlled by Ortega followed to confiscate the 222 political prisoners deported to the United States, and the 94 citizens declared "stateless."

For Pablo Cuevas, director of the Defense Office for Nicaraguan Human Rights, Ortega's action against Coen is in violation of the Nicaraguan constitution, because it guarantee the right to private property and confiscations are prohibited in Nicaragua.

"It is evident that in this case the legal procedures had not been exhausted. If anything was even done legally, we know that the government often simulates legal actions in order to acquire private properties," denounced Cuevas.

Business leaders: "Sad and regrettable"

The governmental action against Coen caused different reactions among members of the private sector, who agreed to talk to CONFIDENTIAL under condition of anonymity.

One business leader from the agricultural sector said he was surprised that the confiscation had not happened earlier, considering "how things are" now in Nicaragua, where Ortega controls all the branches of the government and uses them to advance his own interests.

Another business leader, a manager of an industrial company, said that this is the chronicle of a death foretold of the business leaders who broke off the so-called agreement of dialogue and consensus with Ortega, and that this will "sadly and regrettably" have repercussions on the national economy. 

A retired business leader compared what the country is currently going through with what happened during the first Sandinista government in the 1980s. "The regime has begun to point its cannons against the business community, who logically, like the rest of Nicaraguans, repudiated the repression and violence against the peaceful and civic population. It is nothing new that ORMU [Ortega-Murillo] violates the right to private property and it's not surprising either, since they do not even respect the right to life," she affirmed.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff.


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Octavio Enríquez

Octavio Enríquez

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado. Comenzó su carrera en el año 2000, cuando todavía era estudiante. Por sus destacadas investigaciones periodísticas ha ganado el Premio Ortega y Gasset, el Premio Internacional de Periodismo Rey de España, el Premio a la Excelencia de la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, y el Premio Latinoamericano de Periodismo de Investigación del Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS).