CVM accuses SJ mayoral candidate Romero of tax benefits, pay-for-play scheme
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Citizen Victory Movement (CVM) San Juan District Senate candidates Rosa Seguí and Marilú Guzmán called out New Progressive Party (NPP) San Juan mayoral candidate Miguel Romero on Sunday for obtaining a 57 percent discount per square feet on the purchase of a luxury apartment after allegedly pushing for tax benefits for home developers as Labor and Human Resources secretary under former Gov. Luis Fortuño’s administration.
Guzmán said Romero, as Labor secretary and part of Fortuño’s economic team, promoted the creation of a tax exemption program for home purchases as the then-governor signed the Real Estate Market Stimulus Law on Sept. 2, 2010. However, Guzmán said that according to estimates from the economic team, the tax benefits from Law 132-2010 would have cost $77.8 million in its first two fiscal years. The CVM Senate candidate said further that less than 90 days after the bill was signed, “Romero closed on a $403,000 mortgage from a luxury apartment in the Mirador del Parque Condominium in Hato Rey.”
“In 2016, Romero received a mortgage modification of that apartment under extremely advantageous conditions. It was a modification of the original mortgage through which, among other benefits, he obtained a reduction of $31,000 in the principal of that loan, and it was a loan that, at the time of modification, also reduced the interest up to monthly payment number 72,” Guzmán said. “It should be noted that this is a 40-year loan that, as a general rule, no bank gives to anyone; mortgage loans are, in general, 30 years, 15 years if you decide to modify the loan.”
Meanwhile, Seguí said that such information could be confirmed as an attachment to the apartment’s mortgage included a sworn declaration where Romero purchased a home that was eligible under the aforementioned law. Moreover, she said the NPP senator did not have to pay the Municipal Revenue Collections Center (CRIM by its Spanish acronym) from 2011 until 2015 “even though the rest of the country was paying the special CRIM surcharge imposed under Law 7 .”
“Romero not only bought the largest apartment that was sold in the Mirador del Parque Condominium that year, but he got it with a discount [that was] 57 percent per square foot cheaper than the other apartments sold in 2010. Instead, on December 29 of that year, one of his neighbors bought an apartment, which is half the size of Romero’s apartment, for $471,200, this being 121 percent more expensive per square foot,” Seguí said, adding that “this happened in the same period in which dozens of public employees were fired in order to allegedly have some savings that never happened.”
Likewise, the CVM Senate candidate said housing developers from both Mirador del Parque Condominium and Las Monjas Realty took advantage of the alleged scheme as they were able to sell $3.68 million in luxury apartments that were in the same complex as Romero’s property. Las Monjas Realty “was able to enjoy maximum tax benefits, 0 percent tax on profits on those sales, during the 10 months stipulated by Law 132-2010,” she said.
Romero reacts, calls CVM leaders’ accusations ‘conspiracy theories’
Romero, meanwhile, called the accusations released by the CVM candidates “false and defamatory conspiracy theories that seem to come out of a science fiction novel.”
“For everyone’s knowledge, this [public] servant bought his home 10 years ago like anyone else,” Romero said in a written statement. “At that time, I was not a legislator, much less received special treatment in the sale of my home. As the Labor secretary, I was not involved at that time nor did I work with anything that had to do with incentives for housing development; saying otherwise is an irresponsible act for the sole purpose of tarnishing reputations.”
The senator from San Juan said “CVM claims to represent a new way of doing politics, yet today we see how they actually use the worst of old and traditional politics to maliciously smear and defame.”
“I reiterate that the statements made today by the candidates are absolutely false and are not supported by any fact that has to do with me; [they show] a clear disregard for the truth,” Romero said. “San Juan citizens are already tired of this type of politicking. Our team will continue to focus on working to make San Juan shine again.”