Odebrecht financial operations specialist Leonardo Meirelles was sentenced in the Brazilian court in the so-called “Lava Jato” investigation (often referred to as Operation Carwash by the English speaking media), which revealed corrupt practices across the Brazilian political spectrum. He accepted a plea bargain during his case and consequently provided documentation to the investigation detailing thousands of transfers he made to Odebrecht and other Brazilian companies.
A collaborative journalistic project headed by Peruvian team IDL Reporters managed to obtain copies of the documentation and La Nación, who also played a part, revealed this morning that Meirelles had made transfers totalling US$ 594,518 to Gustavo Arribas, current head of the Argentine Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), in 2013.
It is suspected that the money that Arribas received could have been bribes to ensure that the consortium made up of Odebrecht, Argentine company IECSA – belonging Angelo Calcaterra, Mauricio Macri’s cousin – Spainish COSMA and Italian Ghella kept the contract for the Sarmiento underground train project.
The São Paulo-based financial operations specialist and foreign exchange trader reportedly made five transfers to a Swiss bank account controlled by Arribas, the first of which was sent a day after the contract for the Sarmiento project was re-awarded to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in September 2013.
The transfers were made between 25th and 27th September 2013 from a Hong Kong bank account that the Brazilian finance officer controlled through a company named RFY Import & Export Ltd., which the courts have since deemed “a front” for the payment of fines, laundering of assets and tax evasion.
Through three co-workers, two of whom are lawyers, AFI’s current boss Gustavo Arribas has confessed to receiving one of the transfers, for US$ 70,495, which he puts down to the sale of a property in Brazil. However, he has denied knowledge of the other four transfers as well as any link to the Lava Jato investigation.
This denial appears somewhat at odds with Meirelles confession in July 2015, which he made during an interview with IDL Reporters at San Pablo airport: he admitted to paying what he called propinas (“tips”) in Argentina and detailed that he participated in “a total of 3000 or 3500 operations [payments] over four years, between 2009 and 2014. We are talking about 240 million dollars, which I paid in my companies in Hong Kong – both deposits and payments – in Panama, Argentina and so on.”
When contacted for a specific comment on this instance involving Arribas, however, Meirelles’s lawyer, Haroldo César Nater, told La Nación that his client “cannot provide any information to the national or international press due to the agreement he signed with the Public Prosecutor’s Office.”
Head of the Argentine Federal Intelligence Agency and a prominent businessman in the world of football, Arribas was living in Brazil when he reportedly received nearly US$ 600,000 from Meirelles. At this point, Arribas already enjoyed an intimate friendship with Argentina’s current president Mauricio Macri, then head of the Buenos Aires City Government.
The intelligence chief included the Credit Suisse account in Zurich, Switzerland – to which the transfers were made – in his declaration of assets presented to the Argentine Anti-Corruption Office when before assuming his current role. The total sum reportedly transferred to Arribas’s account is also similar to the “approximately” US $ 500,000 that Odebrecht has previously admitted paying to private accounts “of an intermediary with the understanding that the payments were for the benefit of Argentine public officials.”
Following La Nación’s exposé today, Civic Coalition ARI party leader Elisa Carrió has delivered a request to Buenos Aires’ Comodoro Py courthouses asking Argentine judicial authorities to investigate the claims levelled against Arribas. Buenos Aires lawmaker Graciela Ocaña is also set to make a case today in the federal courts to request that Arribas be investigated.