Leonardo Fariña, the whistle blower in the Lázaro Báez Case that sees high-profile Kirchnerite politicians including former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner implicated in an enormous money laundering scheme, has just given interviews to TN, Clarín and The Wall Street Journal after getting out of a two-year stint in prison and beginning his new life as a protected witness. In the interviews, Fariña describes the extent of the purported money laundering scheme (unofficially known as the “K Money Trail”) and urges Lázaro Báez, the accused “brains” behind the scandal, to follow his example and become a protected witness in order to “set the record straight.”
In Fariña’s interview with TN, interviewer Carlos Pagni describes how nervous Fariña was: in fact, he was apparently so anxious that he only appeared on camera at the beginning of the interview and then refused to continue to be filmed. He can be seen removing a hat which he says concealed the hair loss he’d apparently experienced over the weekend, due to stress. Clarín also takes note of the number of cigarettes he smoked during the interview and that his hands were shaking.
Currently the only person linked to the Lázaro Báez Case who has spent some time in jail (for tax evasion), Fariña was Báez’s first accountant. He became a celebrity of sorts in 2011, famous for driving around in Ferraris and marrying famous model Karina Jelinek, but nobody knew where his money actually came from (not that he helped clarify anything at the time). He was replaced by Daniel Gadín as Báez’s accountant and was caught on secret camera by journalist Jorge Lanata talking about the supposed money laundering scheme in 2012. When Báez was arrested, Fariña began collaborating with the judiciary in its investigation.
“I hold myself accountable for my mistake. I was part of a money laundering circuit. Not a central figure, but I was. I did many things out of inexperience and youth, but I spent two years in jail for that. Now, I feel more calm.”
Fariña said he would recommend that Báez follow his example in order to help his son, Martín Báez, who is also implicated in the scandal and set the record straight, especially since there is now a rift between Báez and the previous administration (Báez was allegedly close to former President Néstor Kirchner, who would have allegedly granted him public work contracts as part of the money laundering scheme.)
“I would sit down and talk to Martín and Lázaro [Báez] to tell them what I went through. I would advise them to talk and collaborate with the judicial system, because otherwise things are going to get too complicated. They won’t get a [helping] hand. I would tell them to search for procedural [legal] guarantees, to seek protection and for them to tell things as they really are. […] He needs to get rid of that chip in his head that dictates that if he doesn’t talk and cover up [the scandal], the magic hands will come to save him. His life is worth nothing.”
Fariña implied throughout the interviews that the previous Kirchner administration allegedly made death threats: in Santa Cruz province, according to Fariña, the head of a construction company was “killed off” in order for the government to take over his business.
“In fact, if [people from the previous administration] can silence them, they will. Don’t doubt that Lázaro must be receiving very strong pressure. If Báez does the right thing and confesses, they, Cristina and former public officials, will be completely screwed. And for many of us involved in this story, it would mean an end to the torture. That’s why it would be perfectly convenient for Kirchnerism that Lázaro suffer from a heart attack.”
Fariña is also undoubtedly eager to see Báez confess because if he did, he would be able to testify as a witness in Fariña’s defense. Right now, since Báez is also accused in the case and has not confessed, he cannot act as a witness for Fariña since that could potentially incriminate him in his own case. This is obviously problematic for Fariña:
“They’re leaving me with no proof […] I’m not allowed to call [Báez, etc.] as witnesses because they’re involved in their own court proceedings. They say that I can’t summon them because I would be compelling them to incriminate themselves and the law does not allow that.”
Fariña’s interviews will have many consequences and as Argentina’s most mediatic whistle blower (despite his new phobia of the camera) everything he says will be taken into account, especially because thus far he has hit the mark as a witness. However, the most stark statements of his interview reflect the harsh implications of the Báez Case itself: Báez’s ties to the Kirchners are what make the case so relevant, because it could implicate the higher tiers of the previous administration.
“This whole maze is not a business set up in relation to Báez, it’s a systematic plan to empty State coffers,” Fariña told TN.
Here’s a very brief summary of what the whole case is about: Lázaro Báez, a businessman, was contracted by the Kirchner administrations to carry out public infrastructure work. He is accused of having charged excessive prices for his services and then of having laundered the “dirty” money by reinserting it into various fronts such as the Alto Calafate Hotel owned by the Kirchners. The rampant corruption that would have had to occur for Báez’s laundering scheme to work in such a way would imply that it is embedded in the Argentine political structure. It’s more than just watching former politicians or public officials go to jail. Such structural corruption means that institutions, political and judicial as well as financial, are compromised and in dire need of change.