A Federal Court has dropped one of two criminal investigations into alleged money laundering by the governing coalition during its 2017 mid-term campaign.
The investigation into Cambiemos (Let’s Change)’s successful campaign in Buenos Aires province centres on allegations it laundered money by falsifying donation receipts using the names and details of low-income welfare recipients.
On Thursday, Federal Judge Martin Irurzun decided to demote the federal investigation of his colleague Sebastian Casanello by passing the case to the Electoral Courts of La Plata, in Buenos Aires province, effectively putting an end to the criminal component of one of two parallel investigations.
The move is a win for the parties composing the government’s fragile coalition. Just one criminal investigation is still under way in the case, but against individuals who worked on the campaign. That investigation is also at risk since Judge Ernesto Kreplak’s Criminal Court in La Plata is also assessing whether to copy its Federal counterparts by demoting the investigation to an Electoral Court level.
In June, federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli requested the auditing of campaign finances and an investigation into the structure of the campaign’s accounting and financial teams.
Four hundred people were listed as donors without knowing, with these fake donors appearing in financial statements as having given anywhere from AR$ 300 to AR$ 5,000, for a total of at least AR $300,000, the news site El Destape reported.
The money was then allegedly used to fund the campaigns of candidates Gladys González, Esteban Bullrich, Graciela Ocaña, and Héctor “Toty” Flores, all of whom won their respective races. The complaint was made by the La Alameda political-activist group and picked up by the anti-Macri news platform El Destape.
Despite weeks of initial silence about the scandal, top coalition members like Buenos Aires province governor Maria Eugenia Vidal distanced themselves from the accused, including Vidal’s former provincial accountant.
“It’s a legal complaint lodged by Kirchnerites and it does not matter who it came from because we presented all of our paperwork”, she told reporters in July. Weeks later, accounant Maria Fernanda Inza, who had managed the campaign's finances, had been sacked.