The “notebooks scandal” continued this week as Judge Claudio Bonadio grilled businessmen and former member of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government. At the same time, many of those arrested previously confessed their crimes in exchange for reduced sentences and were released from prison, including the ex-CEO of Iecsa, the construction company formerly owned by President Mauricio Macri’s cousin.
A series of handwritten notebooks published by La Nación blew the lid off of a major corruption ring that has put Cristina Kirchner against the ropes. The former president and current senator is expected to testify before Judge Bonadio on Monday. The annotations were made by Oscar Centeno, chauffeur to Roberto Baratta, who was Planning Minister Julio De Vido’s right-hand man. The notebooks describe with incredible detail how Baratta and his accomplices extracted payments from some of Argentina’s most prominent companies. All of the involved construction companies were working in energy projects granted by the Planning Ministry. The notebooks report specific places, dates and sums of money. Both Néstor and Cristina Kirchner play a prominent role.
At least 20 businessmen and former government officials were rounded up since the first week of August, accused of participating in an illicit association. Throughout this past week, several businessmen saw their morale broken, and sought a plea bargain with the judge that let them walk free. The first was Juan Carlos de Goycochea, former manager of Isolux, followed by Javier Sánchez Caballero of Iecsa. Angelo Calcaterra, President Macri’s cousin and Iecsa’s former owner, appeared before the judge by his own volition, taking responsibility for the decision to pay bribes in order to “contribute” to the Kirchners’ electoral campaigns. Another one to turn was Héctor Zabaleta, director at the powerful Techint, owned by the influential Paolo Rocca. By press time, a total of eight businessmen had reached a plea bargain after confessing, including Armando Loson (Grupo Albanesi), Claudio Glazman (Latinoamericana de Inversiones), Jorge Neira (Electroingenieria), and Carlos Wagner (Chamber of Construction).
Among those who were called to testify was former federal judge Norberto Oyarbide. The eccentric Oyarbide said he never received bags filled with cash and accused former spy Antonio “Jaime” Situso and Javier Fernández of the General Auditor’s Office of “pressuring” him to “close cases against the Kirchners”. On Friday, the disgraced former judge, who is known for his extravagant lifestyle and occasional appearance on commercial television, told journalists through the electronic doorbell of his apartment that his life was in danger.
“I’m not leaving my apartment for at least one month”, he said. Oyarbide confirmed he had been granted additional personal security.
Planning Minister Julio De Vido, already behind bars for another corruption case, also testified this week, denying all accusations.
As the case moves forward, the investigators hope to uncover further instances of publicprivate corruption. Part of their strategy is to follow in the footsteps of the Brazilian judiciary in the Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) investigation, through which plea bargains and reduced sentences were used in order to gain information regarding delinquent behavior in higher instances. In early August, prosecutors from both countries reached an agreement that will see evidence in the Odebrecht case reach the hands of Argentina’s prosecutors.