The explosive 'cuadernos' corruption case has taken another dramatic turn, just days before Argentina goes to the polls for a crucial election. Despite widespread reporting that they had been incinerated, the original notebooks have reappeared, reigniting the high-profile corruption case which rocked the country in 2018.
The 'cuadernos de las coimas', as they're widely known, allegedly document widespread corruption and a bribery ring centred on public works projects during the governments of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband and former president Néstor Kirchner.
Long thought to be destroyed by their author, Oscar Centano, a driver formerly assigned to the Federal Planning Ministry, the originals books have now re-appeared. Yesterday, the journalist who originally broke the story, La Nación’s Diego Cabot, announced that he had turned them over to federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli.
This morning, Stornelli turned over the original notebooks to federal judge Claudio Bonadio, who is presiding over the case in the courts.
Cabot said on Tuesday he received a call from an unknown telephone number. The man on the other end told him he planned to give the journalist “documentation,” which led to Cabot meeting the man in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Nuñez. After a brief exchange, Cabot said the man gave him a bag and left without answering any of his questions.
“I was paralysed with terror,” Cabot wrote in an article in the newspaper describing the encounter. “From that moment, everyone was suspicious in my eyes… I searched for the car, which have been parked in a nearby garage, and left.”
The revelations have sparked renewed interest in corruption during the Kirchner administrations in the final days of campaigning before Sunday’s election, in which President Mauricio Macri is seeking re-election.
On Thursday, Justice Minister German Garavano denied that the government had played any in the reappearance of the notebooks.
The case “of the notebooks is a minor issue today, more than anything because its been admitted to by some of the players,” Garavano said in a radio interview. “There are testimonies, proven facts.”
The lawyer for Fernández de Kirchner’s, Gregorio Dalbón, has lashed out at Centeno, the notebooks’ author, accusing him of lying about what happened the originals. He said the case should be thrown out of the courts.
“If a man says that he had the original notebooks, that he burned them in a parrilla, this is his statement in the case and they started the case because of this statement,” Dalbón said in a radio interview. “Now it all falls to pieces because the case was started through a lie. What is Centeno going to say now? That he didn’t burn them?”
When the story broke, Cabot said he had photocopied the original pages of the notebooks before returning them to Centeno, who subsequently said he thought they had been burned them in a parrilla after a fight with his partner. The journalist subsequently turned over photocopies and scans to the courts, which opened an investigation and ordered a subsequent trial based on their contents.
In the notebooks, Centeno chronicled the travels and meetings of former planning minister Julio De Vido and a host of other ex-Kirchnerite officials, documenting bribes paid by businessmen for contract preferences in public works projects.
More than 100 businessmen were indicted in the case, as well as a number of former government officials and former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The case is one of at last 10 against her in the courts.
– PERFIL / TIMES