A Victory Front (FpV) Parlasur deputy was taken into custody today after he was discovered trying to hide bags filled with roughly US $8.5 million in cash and jewelry in a convent in Buenos Aires Province.
The man in question, José Francisco 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, one of the most powerful public officials during the Kirchner administrations currently being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the 2012 Buenos Aires Railway Disaster (or Once Tragedy).
López’s connection to De Vido make this incident especially juicy.
According to police sources consulted by La Nación, Buenos Aires Province Police managed to capture López thanks to a 911 call from a person who reported seeing him throw several bags — which were later found to be filled with cash — in the Nuestra Señora de Fátima (Our Lady of Fátima) convent.
Infobae posits that López must have made the decision to dump the cash after finding out police were likely to raid his house, in which he was allegedly keeping the loot.
Law enforcement sources also told Infobae that after entering the convent, police seized “four bags filled with bundles of dollars, euros, yuan and Qatari ryials, watches and an assault rifle with a magazine filled with 25 shells.” “Inside the vehicle [in which he transported everything] there was also a locked briefcase,” sources added.
Predictably, members of Macri’s administration came out to comment on the events as soon as the news came out. In a press conference in the Casa Rosada, Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña said he was “shocked”: “We’re talking about someone who was Secretary of Public Works, handling everything related to it. We see things like this every day, serious corruption cases,” said Peña.
“This looks like a scene from a movie. He’ll have to stand before the judiciary and explain what he was doing there,” Peña added.
López was formally taken into police custody for carrying the aforementioned assault rifle after failing to justify what he was doing with it. According to a last-minute report by TN, Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado formally requested López be arrested.
Back in 2013, López was accused of embezzling public funds destined for public works. However, the case hadn’t moved much until now.
The significance of this latest development — besides the blockbuster elements — is López’s ties to De Vido. As planning minister, De Vido was in charge of approving the budget of all public works allocated by the Kirchner administrations. And in light of the number of embezzled cases currently being investigated (in which contractors overcharged public works assigned to them by the previous administration to allegedly launder excess money), De Vido is heavily implicated in more than one corruption scheme.
Many believe De Vido is a key link to prove the Kirchners’ potential involvement in various embezzlement schemes that took place throughout their 12 years in the Casa Rosada. Why? It would have been extremely difficult to argue that the Kirchners themselves didn’t know what one of their most powerful ministers was doing with all that State money. Having his right hand man caught trying to hide several millions of dollars in cash doesn’t look too good for De Vido, and possibly, not too good for Néstor and Cristina Kirchner, either.