As the informal “blue dollar” exchange rate reached a record-high value of AR$527, the government raided Buenos Aires city’s cuevas —Spanish for “caves,” as informal currency exchange houses are popularly known.
Security Minister Aníbal Fernández reported in a post on Twitter that the operation was conducted by the National Economic Criminal Court, the tax revenue agency (AFIP, its Spanish acronym), the Financial Information Unit (UIF, its Spanish initials), and the Federal Police.
“The target [is] to detain a group of so-called ‘liquidators,’ people who intermediate with brokers in pesos — or [undeclared transactions],” the tweet read.
The Herald reached out to the intervening authorities but did not receive an immediate response.
According to a survey made by Ámbito Financiero, the informal exchange rate saw a AR$5 in one day and ended at AR$525, meaning that the gap with the official exchange rate hit 95.24%. Conversely, the MEP exchange rate — a market in which the government strongly intervenes — is at AR$494.5.
As US dollars at the official exchange rate are increasingly less available for local companies due to the international reserve crisis, surges in parallel exchange rates have a greater impact on the inflation rate and feed devaluation expectations.
Last week, Customs carried out more than 30 raids on banks and businesses across Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata after filing legal complaints against five companies for import scams.
The companies allegedly engaged in arbitrage by charging for inexistent imports at the official foreign exchange rate which, according to Customs, lead to an estimated loss of “at least” US$5.5 million.
“I’ll simplify in a very colloquial way: they’re fake importers, sham portfolios which faked SIMIS, the earlier tools we used to import, with sham documentation, sham invoices, sham customs forms to send money abroad without importing anything,” said Guillermo Michel, head of Customs, in a press conference.