Claudio Uberti, sometimes referred to as “Pachi” or “Ubi,” is one of many Argentine government officials implicated in the ongoing notebook scandal. He first attained wealth and political power through his personal ties to former President Néstor Kirchner; during Néstor’s administration, he became the head of the Argentine Road Concessions Control Body (OCCOVI), the federal agency that regulates highway concessions within the country. During this time, Uberti also became very close with a number of Venezuelan officials, often acting as an unofficial “diplomat” between the two countries.
Uberti first became a prominent figure in 2007, when he was caught in the crossfires of the “Maletinazo” suitcase scandal, in which a suitcase with nearly US $800,000 was seized by Buenos Aires airport police from a passenger on a diplomatic flight that Uberti had arranged. The scandal culminated in Uberti’s being charged with money laundering, smuggling, and bribe soliciting. However, even though an FBI investigation concluded that he had been transporting illegal campaign donations from Hugo Chávez to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the charges were eventually dropped in what many have characterized as fraudulent trials.
Now, Uberti remains on the run after judge Claudio Bonadio— who is currently presiding over the ongoing notebook scandal—issued a warrant for his arrest on Friday night. He was charged for actively colluding in the widespread bribery and corruption web.
Uberti was reportedly mentioned several times in the notebooks, which record a number of bribes exchanged between public officials and businessmen during the Kirchner administrations. He was also the owner of one of the properties to which the former government official Roberto Baratta—the most high-profile figure arrested so far—was alleged to have travelled to collect “bags” full of cash in bribe money. Thus, in addition to a warrant for Uberti’s arrest, Bonadio also issued a warrant to raid his home.
According to spokespeople for the Argentine Federal Police, Uberti is still in Argentina, as his exit from the country has not been registered at any border checkpoints. His international detention has thus not yet been ordered.
While, originally Bonadio had ordered the detention of eighteen officials earlier this month, the judge made the decision to arrest four more people last Friday, including José María Olazagasti, the former secretary of then Minister of Federal Planning Julio De Vido, as well as former head of Argentina’s Federal Financial Information Unit Carlos Lascurain, businessman Raúl Vertúa, and Uberti. This order came after Carlos Wagner, the former president of the Argentine Chamber of Construction, made a number of revelations around a widespread “system” of bribery in the public works sector in Argentina during his testimony, in which he spoke of the aforementioned businessmen and officials.
Now, as Uberti remains a fugitive, even his lawyer has begun to distance himself from the former Kirchner official. Diego Pirota, who has defended Uberti in past cases, arrived today at the Comodoro Py courts to pay a visit to federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli.
“I am not his lawyer in this case, I have absolutely nothing to do with this case,” Pirota announced to reporters in the hallway. The attorney emphasized that he wanted to make Stornelli aware of this fact in person. Stornelli and Pirota met in the prosecutor’s office soon after; however, Stornelli’s office did not release any information about what was discussed during the meeting.
While Pirota stated that he did not know where Uberti is, the lawyer also emphasized that his recommendation would be that Uberti turn himself in—the sooner the better—to avoid making an already bad situation any worse.