The scandal began in March, after journalists from La Nación, Diego Cabot, Candela Ini, and Santiago Nasra, got ahold of eight notebooks that contained a detailed record of bribe payments from business leaders to public officials in exchange for lucrative public works projects between between 2008 and 2015.
Yesterday, Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio ordered the detention of 18 people implicated in a massive corruption scheme that allegedly took place during the Néstor and Cristina Kirchner administrations. Developments on the case continues today—with 13 people currently detained and 5 unaccounted for.
The meticulously kept notebooks were written by Oscar Centeno, the chofeur of the former secretary of Coordination and Management in the Ministry of Planning.
Today, the thirteen detained officials and businessmen were transferred to the Comodoro Py courts to begin testifying before federal Judge Claudio Bonadio. The first to be transferred to begin testimonies was Roberto Barrata, the former secretary of Coordination and Management in the Ministry of Planning. Barrata is at the center of the scandal, the highest-profile official arrested yesterday, with millions in dirty money allegedly passing through his office.
Centeno was also arrested yesterday. He agreed to take a plea deal from prosecutor Carlos Stornelli, and began testifying this morning before federal judge Claudio Bonadio.
Allegedly, Centeno would drive Barrata on his route to collect what would amount to millions in bribes during the Kirchner administrations— money paid by businesses who would receive lucrative public works grants from the Ministry in return—reportedly transporting sacks full of cash to and from locations.
Weekly, Baratta would travel to the presidential quinta in Olivos, where he would allegedly receive instructions about who he was to collect money from, amounts that had previously been negotiated by De Vido or Néstor Kirchner.
Centeno was careful to record everything that happened during his journeys, writing down days, times, names, addresses, and the amount of money that he moved in the Toyota Corolla he used to drive Baratta around.
Among other things, Centeno described in his detailed record-keeping how, when the amounts of cash bribes exceeded USD $2 million, Baratta and De Vido would personally visit the Olivos presidential residence to deliver the money to Kirchner. Other, smaller bags full of cash would be delivered to Daniel Muñoz, the secretary of the former President at the time, at the private home of the Kirchner couple on Juncal Street, in Recoleta. The people that Centeno recorded coming and going from the presidential residence to drop off bribe money, as well as the times, matched perfectly with the residence’s official visitor logs.
Over USD $50 million dollars in dirty money allegedly passed through Centeno’s car. According to the notebooks, there were also at least thirty different addresses from which bags of illegal bribes were collected. The complete bribery scandal involved at least US $160 million.
These eight notebooks were the central point of Centeno’s testimony this morning.
“The notebooks are mine, I wrote them,” Centeno confirmed in court under his plea deal. According to reporting from Infobae, who were informed by judicial sources, Centeno will be released once his statement is finalized.
In his testimony before prosecutor Stornelli, Centeno also explained his rationale behind writing the extremely detailed notebooks, and confirmed that, up until yesterday, he had still worked “as a driver” for Roberto Baratta. Meanwhile, judicial sources told Infobae that this first day of testimonies is the first of many, especially as five suspects have yet to be detained.
Meanwhile, a round of other defendants have not been detained, but have been called in for questioning. Among these are Senator and former President Cristina Kirchner—around who this scandal revolves—and former Planning Minister Julio de Vido, who is currently currently in pre-trial arrest himself since last year for a seperate corruption case. Barrata was de Vido’s right hand man, and it is speculated that many of Barrata’s illegal activities were conducted under de Vido’s instruction and supervision.