Buenos Aires Times

argentina 'NOTEBOOK SCANDAL'

Ex Kirchner financier admits to handling USD$ 800k in kick-backs

Ernesto Clarens admitted Monday to collecting $30 million pesos (US$800 thousand) in kickbacks from public works contracts tied to a public housing scheme operated by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Foundation.

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Hebe de Bonafini (left) and Ernesto Clarens.
Hebe de Bonafini (left) and Ernesto Clarens. Foto:File-Perfil

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Ernesto Clarens, the former financier of the Kirchner presidential couple, admitted on Monday to collecting $30 million pesos (US$800 thousand) in kickbacks from public works contracts tied to a public housing scheme.

The kick-backs came from money assigned to Sueños Compartidos (Shared Dreams), a public housing programme operated by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Foundation. The programme was the subject of scandal in 2013 when media reports revealed 200 million pesos had been illegally diverted into the scheme from government coffers.

KIRCHNERS WERE 'AWARE'

Clarens secured a plea bargain last week in the so-called "notebooks" affair, an alleged graft ring in which former officials of the Néstor and Cristina Kirchner presidencies took kick-backs from construction sector bosses in exchange for public works contracts and other benefits.

In exchange for future leniency, the former Kirchner confidant handed over a list of public works contracts whose benefices allegedly paid him bribes, including a whopping US$1.8 million (ARS$ 70 million) from construction firm Gotti Construcciones.

Clarens told the court that Néstor and Cristina Kirchner "were aware" of what was going on. He also alleged he usually received instructions from José López, the former Public Works secretary at the Planning Ministry, the epicentre of alleged Kirchner-era corruption. López is currently in jail on a preventative arrest order after he was found throwing US$9 million in cash over the fence of a Catholic monastery.

According to Clarens, the scheme required him to hand over money to Néstor Kirchner's private secretary, Daniel Muñoz (who died in 2016), at the presidential couple's Recoleta apartment of at the Panamericano o Faena hotels in Buenos Aires City. 

Investigators believe the scheme reached its maximum level of activity in 2013, the same year the Sueños Compartidos scandal broke, bringing shame to the human rights movement and prompting the isolation of the historic Mother of Plaza de Mayo Hebe de Bonafini from more moderate sectors of the movement.

The scandal led to charges being laid against former Planning Minister Julio de Vido; José López; Bonafini; and the former director of the Mothers' Foundation Sergio Schoklender.

PLEA DEAL REVOKED

Clarens is currently the head of Inverness, a financial consultancy firm whose offices were raided two weeks ago on Judge Claudio Bonadio's order.

The financier voluntarily appeared in court earlier last week to request to "modify and expand" his plea bargain after Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli revoked his previous deal.

In statements made to the courts, Clarens has admitted to exchanging pesos - supposedly originating from bribes paid by construction sector bosses to Kirchner officials - into dollars.

The financier is believed to have offered to provide information about the Kirchner couple's personal finances, according to news portal Infobae.

-TIMES/PERFIL

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