Photo via Agencia Paco Urondo

The journalistic investigation by La Nación (that was part of a larger international investigation that involved outlets in Peru and Brazil) in September 2013 revealed that the current head of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), Gustavo Arribas, had received a total of US $600,000 in different payouts from a financial operations specialist working for Oderbrecht; the Brazilian company involved in the so-called “Lava Jato” investigation. Figures within the ruling Cambiemos coalition had varying reactions in light of the news.

The Government as an institution has not made an official statement on the matter. In fact, Clarín reported that Macri was already aware that the information would be published as Arribas had already caught him up to speed on the details of the case, but let’s let him be the one to expand on that.

Arribas went about this through a release where he conceded to having received a payment, but attributed it to the sale of a property in Brazil. He denied the existence of any other payments and the idea that they had any link to the events being investigated by the Brazilian judicial system.

Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, National Deputy and founding member of Cambiemos, made her distrust towards the dealings evident, and that same day formally requested the Federal Justice system investigate any ties he could have had with Lava Jato. The accusation will be investigated by Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral.

Photo via LT 10
Carrió. Photo via LT 10

Carrió attached the information provided by La Nación’s investigation, which corresponds with the information that Odebrecht’s financial operations specialist, Leonardo Meirelles, provided to the Brazilian judiciary after taking a plea deal bargain in the case. In order to obtain a reduced sentence he provided the investigation with information detailing thousands of transfers he made to Odebrecht, and other Brazilian companies, one of which involves Arribas.

Namely, the documentation indicates that Meirelles had made six transfers totalling US$ 594,518 to a Swiss bank account owned by Arribas. It is suspected that the money that Arribas received could have been bribes to ensure that a consortium of which Odebrecht was a part of could keep a state contract to get the Sarmiento train underground. According to the investigation, the first payment was made a day after Odebrecht, along with the other companies, had the contract renewed.

Should this turn out to be true, City of Buenos Aires legislator Graciela Ocaña said this could be part of the US $35 million in bribes that Odebrecht admitted to having paid in the country between 2007 and 2014 in order to ensure that state contracts would be awarded to them.

“The article’s information reveals that the other transfers that are part of the US $35 million that Odebrecht paid in bribes in Argentina. We want this to be investigated beyond the official’s political affiliation,” said Ocaña, who also intends to go to the judiciary and demand this be investigated.

Photo via Semana Economica.
Photo via Semana Economica.

The lawmaker also requested that the President suspend Arribas from his post until things are cleared up. “Those of us who voted for Cambiemos want a change and an explanation,” she emphasized. Mario Negri, head of the Cambiemos caucus in the Lower House also voiced calls for his suspension.

As mentioned, in a press release Arribas denied any claims of ties to Odebrecht, Meirelles, and the Lava Jato case overall. He said he did receive a transfer of approximately US $70,000, but put it down to the sale of a property, and showed willingness to clear things up in the justice system.

Arribas was living in Brazil when he reportedly received nearly US$ 600,000 from Meirelles. At this point, he already enjoyed a close friendship with Argentina’s current president Mauricio Macri, then head of the Buenos Aires City Government.

Although there was no official response from the Government, authorities consulted off the record by La Nación dismissed the accusation, arguing Arribas wasn’t a government official back then — he was a prominent businessman in the world of football. Therefore, he couldn’t have gotten Odebrecht what it wanted.