Tuesday, November 28, 2023

ARGENTINA | 16-11-2023 18:23

Half a billion pesos seized, convicted graft whistleblower Leonardo Fariña arrested in illegal exchange house raid

Leonardo Fariña, whistleblower in “K money route” graft case, arrested when Federal Police and Customs officers raided illegal ‘cueva’ exchange house in Belgrano

With the blue dollar soaring upwards towards 970 pesos, Customs and Federal Police officers launched a raid on an illegal Belgrano currency exchange house on Thursday, finding half a billion pesos in cash and another surprise.

Also attending the ‘cueva’ located at Juramento 1475 (close to Avenida del Libertador) at the time was Leonardo Fariña, one of the bagmen involved in the high-profile corruption case known as the "K money route."

Fariña, who turned whistleblower in the investigation, was found to be breaching the terms of his house arrest. It is unclear if he was a client or trader at the illegal exchange house.

The raids were part of a general crackdown against currency transactions on illegal markets being carried out in the lead-up to Argentina’s presidential run-off on Sunday.

At the raided offices police found not only Fariña but also some 500 million pesos stuffed into boxes and suitcases, court sources revealed. 

AFIP tax bureau officials were also present at the raid on the financial office dedicated to the sale and purchase of dollars.


Client or trader?

Fariña previously testified as a whistleblower in the "K money route" case and was wearing an electronic ankle monitor, though he was outside the perimeter of the permitted zone.

According to the court sources, investigators are trying to determine whether Fariña formed part of the currency exchange business or whether he was there as a client but in any event he has been remanded in custody.

The raid was ordered by judge Pablo Yadarola in a case investigating presumed infractions of the legislation governing currency exchange and money-laundering. 

Federal Police officers and members of the Customs fraud squad were entrusted with the raid. Apart from the pesos, they also seized the mobile telephones of all involved. Three other people were arrested, along with Fariña.

Sources close to the case informed that when the authorities arrived at the office on the fifth floor of the building, employees of the financial office tried to block their entry by using the bags and suitcases stuffed with banknotes while one of them tried to escape via the balcony.


The case against Fariña

Fariña was convicted for money-laundering in 2021 in the high-profile graft case and sentenced to five years in prison but was allowed to go free provided he wear an electronic ankle monitor due to his collaboration as a whistleblower.

At the time of the raid he still had a further year of house arrest ahead of him but had been outside his home since Wednesday, thus obliging the courts to determine how he escaped detection.

Fariña was convicted at the same time as the notorious Kirchnerite tycoon Lázaro Báez. Last June the prosecution had requested his arrest but his defence lawyers had offered

donations to community centres and homes in exchange for not having to return to prison. 



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