Saturday, November 27, 2021

ARGENTINA | 01-08-2018 17:12

CFK ordered to testify as key Kirchnerite figures are arrested in graft raids

At least 11 – including Roberto Baratta – arrested in 30 raids across BA City, province. Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner called to testify by Judge Claudio Bonadio over claims alleged mass corruption ring involving around Planning Ministry.

As part of an investigation into an alleged giant bribery and corruption ring that spanned over a decade of governance, politicians and high-profile businesspeople associated with the Kirchnerite administrations were arrested and detained this morning in a series of early-morning raids.

In an indication of how high up the allegations of corruption and embezzlement may go, former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was ordered to appear before a federal judge on Monday, August 13, for questioning.

Prosecutors would not confirm, citing secrecy and ongoing investigations, whether she has been called as a witness or as one of the accused. At present the former president benefits from parliamentary immunity, thanks to her current position as a senator for Buenos Aires province.

"In the investigation, the hypothesis is illicit association," the prosecutor in charge of the case, Carlos Stornelli, told Radio La Red in an interview.

"We investigate facts and people who appear suspicious or involved will be investigated, [but] I can not anticipate the consequences," he said when quizzed about the possibility of more former Kirchnerite officials being arrested.

Under the orders of Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, more than 30 police raids were carried out across Buenos Aires City and province at dawn this morning as part of the investigation into the alleged bribery ring, which spans Fernández de Kirchner’s administration and that of her predecessor’s, led by her late husband Néstor Kirchner.

The case involves allegations of bags of being money ferried from corrupt party to corrupt party, under a scheme involving the national government and contractors involved in public works projects.

At the time of reporting, as many as 11 people had been arrested, with a further three individuals believed to have outstanding warrants against them.

Among those who were detained is Roberto Baratta, a former national government official who previously served as coordination and administrative secretary at the federal Planning Ministry. Baratta is considered by many to have been the ‘right-hand man’ of Julio De Vido, a key Kirchnerite figure who headed the ministry for over a decade and is now imprisoned on corruption charges.

Businessmen Gerardo Ferreyra, owner of the firm Electroingeniería, and Javier Sánchez Caballero, former general manager of the Iecsa construction firm (which won a number of tenders during De Vido’s time in the federal government and was previously owned by Ángelo Calcaterra, President Mauricio Macri’s cousin) were also arrested.

Rafael Llorens, a former legal secretary for the Planning Ministry under De Vido, was also detained.

Former cabinet chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina, ex-secretary general to the Presidency and former Intelligrance chief Oscar Parrilli and other former Kirchnerite officials have been summoned to testify before court officials in the next two weeks.


The investigation centres on a collection of eight notebooks, which were acquired by journalists at the national daily La Nación some months ago, copied and subsequently passed to federal prosecutor Carlos Stronelli.

Prosecutors believe the books expose a huge corruption scheme involving the Kirchnerite administrations and firms who won state contracts, for the most part involving public words projects. Some of the funds, local outlets have reported, may have siphoned off for use in electoral campaigns.

According to reports, the notebooks belong to Oscar Centeno, a driver who was assigned to Baratta by the federal Planning Ministry. Centeno, who is now under arrest, is believed to have kept a series of detailed entries related to his time working for the government, though he is not responsible for the notebooks coming to light. Centeno’s wife, according to reports, has also given testimony to prosecutors, detailing how former husband delivered and distributed money and how their income soared well above expectations considering his role was as a chauffeur.

A months-long investigation led by La Nación journalists Diego Cabot, Candela Ini, and Santiago Nasra probed the notebooks, which allegedly contain detailed records of monies collected and delivered by Centeno between 2008 and 2015, under the instructions of the Planning Ministry. Also allegedly included are details of the graft scheme and the payments he was involved in, as well as diary entries detailing events.

The records span more than decade and both the Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner governments and allegedly show how Centeno moved bags of money from more than 30 locations, including – in potentially the most explosive allegation of the case so far – the Kirchner family’s personal residence in Recoleta, Buenos Aires City, and the Olivos presidential residence.  

Fernández de Kirchner has yet to make public comment about today’s developments, though she is likely to push back against Bonadio, a judge who she tried to dismiss during her time as president. She was due to attend a union event this afternoon.

Bonadio — a Peronist who worked as an official for the Carlos Menem administration — has overseen a number of cases involving the former president and members of her family in recent years, including probes into an alleged conspiracy concerning the perpetrators of the AMIA Jewish community centre bombing, alleged money-laundering, possible illegal enrichment and fraud.

In December, Bonadio asked lawmakers to remove the former president's immunity to allow her arrest on a charge of treason for allegedly covering up the role of Iranians in the 1994 bomb attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre.

For the most part, President Mauricio Macri's administration has remained silent on the developments. An unnamed spokesman, granting a comment to La Nación this afternoon, said "there is no official government position, nor is there going to be one for the foreseeable future."


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