Photo via Tucumán A Las Siete

Since last week, the main news plastered across every headline has focused on the capture of José López, the former planning secretary who was caught trying to bury millions of dollars in a convent last Tuesday. This latest revelation adds yet another bizarre dimension to an already absurd story: according to Crónica, the “convent” is not recognized by any Catholic diocese as such, and the women currently residing in it are not actually nuns. So, what’s the deal?

The full name of the complex located in the General Rodríguez neighborhood of the Greater Buenos Aires Area is the Convent of the Praying Nuns and Penitents of Our Lady of Fatima, and various media outlets have labeled it as a “private association of worshipers.” The complex was in fact built during the ’90s and was used as something of a retirement home by Monsignor Rubén Di Monte, who was known as the “K priest” due to his ties with former Presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Di Monte often received public officials of the previous administration, including the former presidents themselves, former Planning Minister Julio De Vido (López’s boss) and López himself.

According to press reports, there are currently three women residing in the so-called convent. They are apparently Discalced (or “Barefoot”) Carmelites, a branch of the Catholic Carmelite order to which lay people dedicate their lives to prayer. These women in particular are devoted to the Virgin of Fátima, also worshiped by Monsignor Di Monte, who died in April this year. So technically, they’re not nuns.

Crónica posits that the complex is in fact a space for spiritual retirement and that the Church knows that it is not recognized as a convent by a diocese.

The fact that the so-called “convent” is not, in fact, a convent under the jurisdiction of a diocese may be immaterial to the José López Case. Or it might be relevant. At this stage we don’t know.

As for the individual members of this establishment, there have been many speculations about how much the “nuns” know or the “real” reason why they are in the so-called “convent.” The whole thing has become even more suspicious since the discovery of hidden “vaults” that according to the nuns were built as a “crypt.” It was hidden under a carpet and the convent itself is stocked with infra-red cameras.

However, it should be made clear that lay women taking part in a religious order via a private organization is not something inherently suspicious.

López was arrested last Tuesday after he was caught trying to stash bags filled with watches, jewelry and cash amounting to almost US $9 million in the “convent.” López was the public works secretary under all three Kirchner administrations and is considered to be the right-hand man of former Planning Minister Julio De Vido, who was in charge of approving all public works budgets. Basically, López has unleashed a political storm that could be the tipping point proving whether or not the previous Kirchner administration orchestrated a number of corruption schemes to embezzle public funds.