May 27, 2022 1:13 pm

How was the plot behind the millionaire plane that Axel Kicillof and Sergio Berni bought

There are several discussions about the plane that Governor Axel Kicillof and his star minister, Sergio Berni, bought. One could debate about the opportunity to add an aircraft to the hangars of Buenos Aires with a poverty in the territory of 45.3%; or discuss the need or not of the purchase, or about the model and benefits. But there is one issue that stands out: the price to be paid.

Kicillof and Berni must not have looked in depth at the file of purchase to which you agreed THE NATION, or in his case, they passed over some relevant issues. At first, there is an appraisal from the National Appraisal Court in which the technical body put a price on the aircraft: US$5.9 million, far, far from the US$7.1 million to which the operation was awarded.

Berni, through message communication, He said that the plane was bought even below what the manufacturer itself quoted. And he attached documents from Beechcraft showing that such a plane is listed at $8.76 million, according to the commercial price list. “Manufacturer’s price set in Argentina (transfer, registration, pilot and mechanic course in the United States,” he wrote. He also said that the appraisal is old and that another one was made that yielded almost 3 million more. “This is very technical and the experts do it, before putting the signature I asked all the control organisms and the appraisal court and they all said that it was fine; If not, I’m not going to sign it. I consulted all the control organisms”, he added.

The minister also asked to point out two issues. “The government of [María Eugenia] Vidal spent $8 million renting planes. The governor prefers that the province be bought and capitalized. The big business for politicians is to rent planes, not buy. Those favors are then returned by carrying and bringing them from one place to another. We prefer to buy,” he said. He then added: “Kicillof decided that it be painted with the colors of the province, so that it is identified and the whole world sees it.” Finally, he recalled that the plane being purchased is to replace a similar one that is already 20 years old and that the fleet was abandoned by the Vidal management. “The other day the screens went off in flight. You can’t fly like that.”

They also did not notice another peculiarity: the plane is not configured as a toilet nor was it requested to be configured as such. This is easier for officials to explain, since the tender never asked for a medical aircraft but for a turboprop twin-engine “intended for official use for the aerial transfer of provincial government personnel, so it must have the possibility of being configured for the transfer up to 7 passengers. When asked, Berni said: “The set will be purchased separately, but it will also be used a lot for transplants, to transport organs.”

According to official data, the tender was won by Rslink LLC, a company of a former member of the Air Force, Rodolfo López Hower, who left the force in 2003 and currently lives in Ohio, United States, where is also the company. THE NATION spoke with the businessman. “The sale of the aforementioned aircraft plus a set of goods and services that includes, among others, the training of crews and mechanics, was carried out within the current legal regulations for the province of Buenos Aires, specifically that referred to international public tenders. . Rslink acted within that regulation, respecting not only all the regulations of the Argentine laws, but also framed one hundred percent in the regulations that the United States they demand from their companies for foreign sales”, said the businessman from abroad.

Plane that bought the province of Buenos Aires for 7.19 million dollars

But the doubts appeared after the minister, faced with the silence of Governor Kicillof, who was truly interested in the plane, tried to argue in favor not only of the purchase but also of the price paid. “The purchase is not awarded until the consultation is made to the Court of Appraisals of the Nation, the highest body to decide if what is paid is right or wrong. We made the consultation, the Court approved it”, said the minister in statements to the Lanata sin Filter program, which is broadcast by Radio Mitre. Then he continued: ”I believe in the Appraisal Court. We consult it, obviously everything is in writing in the file. The purchase was not made until the Court, the highest authority to define whether what is paid is right or wrong, said [por] That plane was well priced. The best way to take care is for the Appraisal Court to say whether it is the price or not the price”, he concluded.

LA NACION agreed to the tender file to collate the document that, according to Berni, is decisive to buy. However, the one who seems not to have seen it is the minister. On August 10, 2021, through a “Value Opinion”, specifically number IF-2021-72900021-APN-TTM#MOP, reference “E-5253752-Valor-Min. Security Province of Bs. As.-Airplane”, the The Court of Appraisals of the Nation determined that the value of the aircraft BeechCraft 250, King Air, Serial Number BY-377 is US$5.92 million. Someone mishandled the number to the minister. But beyond the excuse, the suggested price is far, 1.2 million dollars, from what the Court suggested.

But beyond this difference, there are many objections in the market, since there are not a few who launched to consult the price on various specialized pages where the plane is offered. The answer that came back is that the list price is 5.7 million dollars. That’s where the negotiation begins.

Now, the actual operation of the aircraft, that is, what Rslink will pay for the aircraft, is $6.2 million. In the company they recognized that the plane is not their own and that they will buy it in the market.

Since the purchase became public, Another of the arguments put forward by Berni is the need for one more plane for the fleet, since “who uses the plane the most is the health system.”. He said that these planes are multipurpose and that they are adapted for passengers or for health services.

But nevertheless, nowhere in the specifications, neither in the description of the benefits nor in the detail of the costs of the transaction, is the need to have this tool indicated. Moreover, there is always talk that it is for the transfer of officials and even gives some details of small luxuries that should not be missing. “The passenger cabin, at a minimum, will be configured with corporate-type movable seats with at least two folding desks,” reads point 4 of Annex V of the tender, where the technical specifications are detailed. That is, desks were ordered, not stretchers.

Interior of the plane that bought the province of Buenos Aires
Interior of the plane that bought the province of Buenos Aires

In addition, there are some more specifications, both in the passenger and crew cabins. The first is that they are physically separated, but there are also others such as having air conditioning, or a “robust and retractable landing gear” and alloy wheels.

Interior of the plane that bought the province of Buenos Aires
Interior of the plane that bought the province of Buenos Aires

The provincial tender was opened last year, had the number 12/21 and was identified with the file 2021-18114554-GDEBA-DDPRYMGEMSGP. There was only one bidder, Rslink, a company from the United States, which operates in Argentina with two companies. The first is called Lubrifram and is usually present in many tenders for the provision of aircraft spare parts. It happens that Rslink represents a Russian company that manufactures MI helicopters, known in the country for those painted orange, for military use, which were originally purchased for Antarctica.

López Hower acknowledged that this company is his. He said that in the province of Buenos Aires, it competes with another of the companies: Aerolink. However, this time the winner was the foreigner.

In that call for bids, another topic appears that could surely be a reason for discussion. “In the event that the price is made in foreign currency, for payment purposes, it will be converted based on the selling exchange rate. of the Banco de la Nación Argentina, on the day prior to the issuance of the Payment Order, and the contractor may subsequently claim the exchange difference that arises between said moment and the corresponding bank accreditation”, says article 23 of Annex III of the Conditions Individuals. “Is the payment in dollars?” asked this chronicler. “Yes, in dollars,” replied López Hower.

There could be disputes regarding the exchange rate. Unless, of course, the Central Bank authorizes the administration of Axel Kicillof to buy dollars at the official exchange ratel, In that case, what was budgeted in pesos would be enough. Otherwise, nobody knows if the operation could actually be done or not.

Axel Kicillof in Villa Gesell
Axel Kicillof in Villa GesellThomas Cuesta

“The presentation of the offer with all its details can be found in the contract file, especially regarding the cost structure, which includes the net benefit of Rslink in the operation. Rslink emphatically denies having deviated from the current laws, especially with regard to the transparency of the proceedings”, said the businessman.

As Berni rightly said, the data is in the file. There is also the opening of costs, that is, how to reach the amount of US$7,195 million. According to official information, and the details that buyer and seller exchanged, the breakdown begins, as stated, by the price of the plane, which is US$6.2 million. Later, maintenance actions prior to delivery add up to US$185,652 and there are counted as items “pre-purchase technical inspection, technical publications and updating of the navigation database with information from Argentina and new paint with a design chosen by the client”.

The instruction and training of two technicians was quoted at US$79,948 and that includes tickets, insurance, two translators and tests for Covid. For transfer flights (ferry) US$135,000 was projected and for certifications and ratings in the Air Force and ANAC, another US$91,200.

Finally, there is 105,866 dollars for the reception procedures in Argentina and to pay import clearances; $122,948 for aircraft warranties and the rest, $80,000, for surety bonds.

Thus, the exact number of US$7,195,214 is reached, far from that essential and decisive recommendation, according to Berni himself, made by the Appraisal Court in which it determined an amount of US$5.95 million. Berni and Kicillof will contribute one more plane to the provincial hangars.They join a huge list of governors who, anxious and in a hurry to get where they want to go quickly, have rejuvenated the air fleets in recent years. If they don’t go to the meetings called by President Alberto Fernández, it will be because they don’t want to; planes to arrive on time, they are not lacking.

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