13 August 2018

Corruption has been enshrined into Argentina’s political landscape, but a new and widespread scandal has hit former Kirchner administration officials. In the recent scandal, it has come to light that Oscar Centeno, the driver of the former deputy planning and public works minister Roberto Baratta in the Kirchner government, filled eight notebooks meticulously recording alleged receipt of bags of money from 2005 to 2015. The notebooks implicated not only major members of government but also several wealthy businessmen. La Nación newspaper published on 1 August 2018 the contents of the eight notebooks kept by Centeno. The scandal is similar to the Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption in Brazil. Buenos Aires Times reported.

Former Planning minister Julio De Vido and his deputy, Roberto Baratta are also implicated in the corruption scandal. Former president of the Argentine Construction Chamber, Carlos Wagner, is also suspected of corruption. Businessman Juan Carlos de Goycoechea would be testifying in the case. He surrendered to the police admitting he paid ‘contributions to election campaigns’.

Business leaders questioned have not denied payments but have argued they were contributions to political campaigns and a few have secured plea bargains.

The claim that the businessmen were extorted by the Kirchners into paying bribes would indicate that the businessmen are victims, and therefore only partially responsible. This is not true. Those businessmen were responsible for creating and executing the whole scheme.

Wagner of the Chamber of Construction and Javier Sánchez Caballero, former CEO of Iecsa, were enthusiastic supporters and key players. They got contracts that they were not qualified to get. Juan de Goycochea had been fired by his firm Isolux after an internal audit showed he had set up a parallel structure that paid millions to low-level employees for services the company never received. The money, of course, went to the Ministry and ultimately into the Kirchner system.

Amado Boudou, former vice president of Argentina, was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison on charges of corruption and taking advantage of his authority. He was also banned from becoming a public official for life. Boudou pressured Central Bank of Argentina to save his company from bankruptcy. In return, the officials received company shares.

Cristina Fernandez is accused of taking bribes linked to public works contracts, allegedly started by her late husband and former president Nestor Kirchner. According to Bloomberg, judge Claudio Bonadio has authorised the investigators to raid her properties for potential evidence.

Nestor Kirchner was Argentina’s president from 2003 to 2007 and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner from 2007 to 2015.