On Sunday, local news site El Destape brought to light an audio clip of a conversation with Tierra del Fuego National Deputy Gastón Roma in which he admitted to laundering campaign money for the Cambiemos coalition through fake contribution made by oblivious welfare recipients. His interlocutors secretly recorded his statements, including the indisputable moment in which he admits, “yes, the contributions were fake.”
This is the latest development of the journalistic investigation that was kicked off in June, when journalist Juan Ignacio Amorín with El Destape revealed that the Cambiemos party used social welfare beneficiaries to launder huge amounts of money in the 2017 midterm elections in the form of fabricated endorsements. Basically, Amorín claims that the party used the list of people who received social welfare to fake thousands of endorsements in order to finance their campaign.
In the audio clip, Roma defended his clandestine actions by saying, “if you want to be a candidate, you can’t abide by the rule book. Did you think that politics is all honesty and transparency?”
He then went on to explain that he visited a “judge in Buenos Aires” himself to make a formal complaint about the money laundering and confess to being a part of it. After confirming that he was a Federal Deputy and that Roma had evidence to backup his claims, the judge allegedly told him to “forget about it,” and that the case will just “go around for two years and then drop out.” He continues by saying that “everyone [launders money], so it won’t go through the courts.”
Ariel Lijalad, journalist working for El Destape believes that the government is taking steps over formal investigations that started as a result of the revelations to ensure impunity. He assured that the decision by Interim Attorney General Eduardo Casal to remove prosecutor Hernán Schapiro from one of the cases was instigated by an ulterior motive: to get a conservative prosecutor on the case to ensure that the case gets ruled favorably for the Cambiemos party.
Amorín’s story revealed that many of the people who allegedly contributed to the Cambiemos campaign could barely afford to feed their children, let alone give between AR $300 and AR $1,500 pesos to a political campaign. In addition, a news site based in the city of La Plata called Diagonales discovered that Cambiemos allegedly used the same method of money laundering in the 2015 presidential elections; except instead of using social welfare beneficiaries, they used former mayor candidates, council members, and school counselors from the region as their fake donors.
“One-hundred percent of the contributors are fake,” said former Ituzaingó mayoral candidate, Osvaldo Marasco to Diagonales. “They whitewashed money by copying the lists of candidates we sent to the electoral board and assigned them amounts of up to AR $50,000.”
In addition, Judge Ernesto Kreplak pressed criminal charges against Fernanda Inza, the former Cambiemos treasurer and general accountant to Buenos Aires governor María Eugenia Vidal earlier this month as part of the money laundering investigation. A month after El Destape released their initial investigation in June, Vidal fired Inza after only two days on the job.