At least 10 barrels of pseudoephedrine, which is a key ingredient to manufacture a few types of legal drugs as well as methamphetamine, were found at Ezeiza international airport yesterday. Each weighed around 25 kilograms, meaning that there was at least 250 kilograms of the stuff. The best part? They had been sitting in plain sight for at least five years. And, not for the first time in Argentina mind you, it’s all causing quite a stir in political circles.
So many questions. Who uses barrels? Was it expired after five years? Did nobody actually think to open them at any point?
The barrels were brought in from France by a Paraguayan company and were supposedly “in transit” to Paraguay but the “importers never claimed them,” according to La Nación. Presumably it was too dangerous: they lost their receipt or couldn’t come up with an excuse as to what would be in those barrels (or they were in jail). The sources vary on how long they were there for: most say 2011 but some think that they had been sitting there since 2008.
It’s not like nobody had noticed: first off, former Customs chief Juan José Gomez Centurión — who was removed from his post last month following corruption allegations — told authorities where they were. In fact, he had already been providing information to the judicial system before being removed from his post. Since the very beginning, Centurión has claimed audio recordings that allegedly detailed his involvement in corruption schemes was nothing but a set-up by mafias that operate within the Customs office.
So here we have Centurión acting like that cop in the movie who gets fired right before retirement and then helps bring down the bad guys anyway. But that’s not all! Then enters Security Minister Patricia Bullrich basically dismissing Cenurión’s claims as hogwash. Bullrich told media that the barrels were found thanks to the Airport Police (PSA), which had alerted authorities about the barrels in May and that Customs was allegedly in the process of destroying them, meaning that this was known about for a while. Ah! Even more questions, then. Why was the information not released? Why did it take so long for authorities to actually seize the stuff?
Regardless, Bullrich says Centurión should be “reprimanded” because he “already knew about it in May, but didn’t file charges [or] alert the proper authorities.”
The tension between Bullrich and Centurión is not new as the Security minister has long been one of the strongest voices in the administration that called for his ouster after the release of incriminating audio messages. The way Centurión was immediately suspended from his post, has caused more than a bit of tension within President Mauricio Macri’s administration.
“I don’t have beef with him, I just like to state the facts clearly. This isn’t something that happened yesterday, the PSA already knew about it and alerted Customs […] We have to be serious about this,” continued Bullrich in a radio interview.
This isn’t the first time that ephedrine has been a star player in Argentina’s political scene. Most recently, in June, federal Judge Ariel Lijo prosecuted former public officials over mismanagement of campaign funds for former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s 2007 campaign. The reason? Lijo alleged that AR$886,000 was laundered from an ephedrine-trafficking ring called the “medicine mafia” and camouflaged as campaign donations. Ephedrine was also behind the infamous triple murder in General Rodríguez, Buenos Aires province, where three pharmaceutical businessmen were killed in 2008.