The fortune of the presidential family in Nicaragua is handled as a state secret in the circles of the secretariat of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), twenty years after the last declaration of assets of Daniel Ortetga and his wife Rosario Murillo, when they reported that their wealth amounted to 375,000 dollars.
However, the existence of 22 private companies under the name of 18 executives and five lawyers - all close to the presidential family - reveals a business network that has had an exponential growth since Ortega’s return to power, underpinned by the private appropriation of the millionaire state cooperation coming from Venezuela, estimated at 5 billion dollars between 2007 and 2016.
A CONFIDENCIAL investigation based on documents from the Public Registry and information from the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS), reveals a partial map of the Ortega Murillo’s private business network for the first time. The analysis of the data reveals who the shareholders and front men are, and the pattern of shareholding control exercised by these people trusted by the family.
The investigation also verifies the benefits obtained by these companies in the hands of the presidential clan, of State funds through contracts with public institutions, and the advantages obtained in exchange for the concession granted to the telecommunications company Xinwei (owned by Chinese businessman Wang Jing), which gave them 30% of shares, as well as in the DNP-Petronic gas station network, and in the case of the state television station Canal 6, managed by a private company.
Likewise, the INSS data confirms the Ortega Murillo's nepotism with relatives in state positions and others who receive salaries from the network's companies, including eight children of the presidential couple: Rafael, Juan Carlos, Camila, Laureano, Luciana, Daniel Edmundo, Maurice Facundo, and Carlos Enrique “Tino”.
The most prominent of them all is Rafael Ortega Murillo, who has the rank of minister, although he does not have a portfolio in charge of the State, and whom the United States considers key administrator of the family’s illicit financial scheme, whose wealth has grown under the protection of Venezuelan cooperation and the State.
The business network
This investigation, based on documents from the Public Registry, builds a partial account of the Ortega Murillo's private business network and the legal infrastructure of companies and partners created to manage them. It is a business network of at least 22 companies that rely on the loyalty of five lawyers and eighteen executives who participate as shareholders and front men, all with some link to the presidential family and the ruling FSLN.
The documents confirm the economic interests of the Ortega Murillo family in oil with companies such as Alba de Nicaragua S. A. (Albanisa) and Distribuidora de Nicaragua S. A. (Albanisa). (Albanisa) and Distribuidora Nicaragüense de Petróleo (DNP) in the gas station business. They are also in real estate with ICSA Inmobiliaria y Urbanizadora Industrial, S. A. (URBISA). (URBISA), in advertising as Lumicentro or Difuso, in services as Desarrollo, Tecnología y Comercio Global and in media. And perhaps this last area is the most visible so far, due to the presence of the presidential couple's children at the head of companies such as Canal 4, 8, 13 and in radio stations such as Sandino and Variedades, among others.
The shareholders of these 22 companies, among which no member of the presidential family appears, share responsibilities with public employees, friends or relatives, such as Mauricio Jacobo Castillo Arcia, a former brother-in-law of Juan Carlos Ortega, another son of Ortega Murillo, director of channel TN8 and also sanctioned by the United States and the European Union. Castillo Arcia is in charge of processing state advertising and appears as an employee and shareholder of this channel, which was acquired in 2010 with 9.7 million dollars which also came from the Venezuelan state cooperation, invested in Albanisa.
In the shareholding traffic of the Ortega's companies, the thread of the dominion of the corporations is being lost, according to the certifications of the minutes of the board of directors, each one constituted with a president, a vice-president and a secretary of the board of directors.
The most repeated name as shareholder of the companies of the presidential family is that of lawyer José María Enríquez Moncada. Ortega and Murillo's children participate as directors of some companies or in executive positions, but the shares are in the hands of trusted personnel.
“They are people who come from the personal environment of each member of the family, where they select who can be trusted for such a function”, but party cadres or high profile political officials do not participate, explained a source linked to the operation.
CONFIDENCIAL's investigation reveals that it is not a sophisticated structure, but a formal one, in which -according to the same source- monthly payments are agreed upon for the persons who act as shareholders, as well as the period for which they will have shares in their name. The informant pointed out that the constant changes in the management of the companies occur because the family does not trust in one person indefinitely.
The participation of Yadira Leets Marín, Rafael Ortega Murillo's ex-wife, is essential in the financial scheme. In 2015, she was the president of CODISA, a company composed of radios Sandino, La Tuani, Futura, Clásica and Viva FM. On the other hand, he was temporarily listed as majority shareholder of Radio Ya in 2015, manager of Viva FM in 2010 and majority shareholder of the company Radio Stereo Variedades until September 2018.
Rafael Ortega Murillo operates as a strong radio entrepreneur, while his brothers run open television channels (4, 8, and 13). However, he is in the shadows when it comes to DNP's gas stations.
According to internal documentation of the company In & Out, in September 2013, Rafael also held administrative power of the company, which has benefited from state contracts.
In February 2020, an investigation by the Latin American journalism platform Connectas revealed that three television channels and advertising companies, among them In & Out, under control of the Ortega Murillo's, won public contracts in the order of 936,000 dollars between 2018 and 2019.
Five lawyers and a small group of shareholders recur most frequently in the control scheme of the family’s companies. In addition to Enriquez Moncada, other lawyers involved in these businesses are Juana del Carmen Violeta Nicaragua Lopez, Reyna Anais del Socorro Araica Lopez, Patricia Josefina Villarreal Martinez and Jose Maria Enriquez Guido.
As shareholders, in addition to José María Enríquez Moncada and José Mojica Mejía, Eduardo Germán Morales Cuadra, Mayling Patricia Alegría Doña, Yessenia María Enríquez Guido, Paula de los Ángeles Aguilar and Mario José González García appear more frequently. Some are listed in five, six and even seven companies.
CONFIDENCIAL has tried to contact José María Enríquez Guido since August 2021, when an email was also sent to Vice President Murillo, but the person on the phone said at that time that he was not available. A message was left requesting that he contact us, but there was no response in the months that followed.
We then also contacted Mojica Mejía to learn about his shareholdings in various companies, according to the findings of this investigation. However, he did not answer his cell phone.
Ortega's connection with Wang Jing and Xinwei
In 2013, the appearance of the telecommunications company Xinwei and the Chinese multimillionaire Wang Jing, to whom the State gave the concession to build an inter-oceanic canal that did not prosper, meant a business opportunity for the Ortega Murillo family, through Enríquez Moncada.
On September 3, 2014, Telcor delivered a telephone concession for basic local calls, national long distance and international long distance calls to a consortium integrated by Inversiones Nicaragüenses de Telecomunicaciones, S. A. and the company Xinwei Telecom, from which the company Xinwei Intelcom.nic was born. Two years later, after an alleged investment of US$200 million, they began operations under the Cootel brand.
A minute of the General Assembly of Shareholders of Xinwei Intelcom.nic, held in Managua on May 29, 2018 -and in possession of CONFIDENCIAL- confirms that José María Enríquez Moncada -the operator of the Ortega Murillo family- representing Inversiones Nicaragüenses de Telecomunicaciones, S. A, participates with 30 000 shares equivalent to 30%, while the majority shareholder is Lamericom International Co. Limited, with 70% of the shares, a company represented by the Chinese businessman Ling Ligang.
CONFIDENCIAL also consulted Enríquez Moncada last August about his shareholding in Xinwei in Nicaragua, and other companies linked to the presidential family and he answered “what do you care about any of that”. Afterwards, he remained in absolute silence until he ended the call.
At the end of last September, it was reported that businessman Wang Jing and his company Xinwei were expelled from the Shanghai Stock Exchange, which caused him economic losses. CONFIDENCIAL’s investigation reveals that Enríquez Moncada has participated at different times as a partner in seven companies of different economic sectors: TN8 and Viva Nicaragua Canal 13, the radio group CODISA, DNP, ICSA Inmobiliaria, the telephone company Xinwei and Negocios Publicitarios Internacionales (NEPISA), a company that represents Canal 6.
Major shareholder is owner of beauty salon
Mayling Patricia Alegría Doña, accountant and owner of a beauty salon in the Altagracia neighborhood of Managua, is another of the most trusted employees. She has been a shareholder or director at different times of CODISA, Entretenimiento Digital, Noventa y Uno Punto Tres Stereo, Radio Variedades, Canal 8, the advertising company In & Out and Fundación Somos TN8.
Mayling Alegría has had a notorious growth within the Ortega Murillo's business organization.
CONFIDENCIAL phoned the beauty salon since last August, where they assured that Alegría Doña was not there and did not provide any other contact, so it was not possible to locate her. In 2010, Alegría Doña was assistant sales manager of Radio Variedades (the former name of the radio station Viva FM), and has also participated in the oil business.
There are other prominent shareholders such as Eduardo Germán Morales Cuadra, who participates as a partner in eight companies of the network and is the son of the Sandinista publicist Adán “el Flaco” Morales. CONFIDENCIAL contacted Morales Cuadra, but after knowing the reason for the call he hung up and did not answer the phone again.
Canal 6, state-owned or part of the Ortega Murillo network?
The opaque management of state assets is confirmed in Canal 6, identified as a state television station that is committed to education. However, this CONFIDENCIAL investigation confirms that the state channel operates under the joint stock company Negocios Publicitarios Internacionales, S. A. (NEPISA), controlled by two close associates of the presidential family: the lawyer Enríquez Moncada and Eduardo Morales Cuadra.
A collaboration between Canal 6 and Canal 44, of the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, revealed that NEPISA acted as representative of Canal 6, while the director of Canal 6 and former leader of the Sandinista Youth, posed in the public photo of the agreement together with Gabriel Torres, director of the Mexican television station.
The Presidency has never explained Canal 6's relationship with NEPISA, although an executive decree indicates that the state-owned television station has been under its responsibility since 2012. Tamara de los Ángeles Escobar Velásquez signed the agreement for NEPISA. She was listed until 2019 as owner of half of the shares of this company and is also manager of Viva Nicaragua Canal 13, another of the channels run by children of the presidential family.
The data revealed by this investigation is thus approaching the first partial report of a millionaire private business network of the Ortega Murillo family, of how its legal infrastructure works and how its partners, shareholders and front men are linked to the presidential family and the ruling FSLN: trustworthy tokens and not party cadres or high profile political officials, who at the same time are constantly rotated according to the interests of the couple, to protect the family's business.
The Ortega Murillo businessmen
DNP, CODISA, and the private control of TV channels 4, 8 and 13
Forty-two years after the Sandinista revolution, the Ortega Murillo family is made up of private businessmen who take advantage of their relationship with the State.
Rafael Ortega Murillo has been the main financial operator behind the DNP company, now sanctioned by the United States. He is also a radio and hydrocarbon businessman and has control of Grupo Comunicaciones Internacionales Digitales, S. A. (CODISA).
Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo is the current director of Canal 8, a television company that was also acquired with Venezuelan cooperation funds.
Laureano Ortega Murillo, known for being an opera tenor, is an investment advisor at the ProNicaragua Agency and liaison with HKND and Xinwei companies and with the governments of Russia and China.
Carlos Enrique “Tino” Ortega co-directs Canal 4, together with his brother Daniel Edmundo, although he is not among the current partners either, but he was in the past and was listed as administrative proxy until mid-2018.
Maurice, Luciana and Camila are the directors of Canal 13, financed with state funds, although their names do not appear in the documents of the business network.
The patrimonial growth of the Ortega Murillo family has taken place under the protection of the power and control of the State, while the Executive received an average of 500 million dollars annually between 2007 and 2016 from Venezuelan cooperation.
However, the former president of the Comptroller's Office and now Superintendent of Banks, Luis Ángel Montenegro (internationally sanctioned) said in 2015 that the control institutions were neither the “FBI or the Police” to be investigating the cases denounced by the independent press, including the acquisition of media by the children of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo or the non-transparent management of Venezuelan funds.
Ortega only made a declaration of probity in 2006, based on data from 2002, when he was a congressman. He claimed then to have a patrimony of US$217,844, while his wife Rosario Murillo reported US$159,300 and his children -then minors and now businessmen- had no assets at that time.
According to article six of the Law of Probity of Public Servants, Ortega has the obligation to declare his assets and those of Vice President Murillo -who as a public official should also do so-, but not those of his children, because the local legislation only obliges him to do so in the case that they are under his authority.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff