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‘Bags of Cash’ Scandal: José López Trial Started Today

In 2016 the former Public Works Secretary was caught with US $9 million in cash.

By | [email protected] | August 10, 2018 4:22pm

lopePhoto via La Nación

Today, former Public Works Secretary José López faced the first day of the trial in which he stands accused of illicit enrichment. López was first accused of the crime in 2006, but his name and the case rose to notoriety after he was caught literally red-handed, throwing bags with roughly US $9 million in cash over a convent wall in June 2016.

López, who has been in pre-trial arrest ever since the episode, provided an explosive testimony in which he argued that he never embezzled public funds and assured the money was not his, but belonged to “several people from the political landscape” who, through intelligence agents, forced him to take it to the now-infamous convent. Moreover, he assured he does not not who these characters are  and “doesn’t want to know,” indicating that he would not reveal all what he knows to protect him and his family.

We have translated the entire testimony. You can read it below:

“What I have been hearing and what I am being told is that the existing narrative concerning this case began with the regrettable episode of the bags in the convent, and that the investigation began then. This is not the case. Since 2006, people have tried to charge me with illicit enrichment that actually does not exist. In fact, I was acquitted in part of the investigation.

“From that year [2006] and until the ‘bags’ episode, a thorough investigation was conducted, trying to find an increase of my assets that did not match my personal and familiar income. It’s been more than eight years and I am certain it has been proven that I did not get rich illegally. So much so that there was no evidence to call me into questioning.

“It was only on June 14, 2016, when I was detained, and then I had to be questioned. I ended up being questioned about everything, even about the issues in which there was no evidence to uphold a charge. I ended up being questioned about my assets, by their evolution and the ‘bags’ matter. The ‘bags’ issue has nothing to do with my assets.

“I can explain the evolution of my assets, but I can’t do the same with the money that was in those bags, because of the risk it would represent if I did. I will talk about the subjects but with some restrictions, because of the risk it entails for my family and myself.

“In mid-2016, being in Montevideo of the Parlasur [the non-binding legislative body of the Mercosur trading bloc], a representative told me: ‘You, me, [Agustín] Rossi and another representative are being investigated,’ I was told this by sources close to the SIDE [current AFI intelligence agency]. I took note of it but did not tell my wife, so as not to worry her. That was indeed the case, as I noticed various problems and some interference in my communications both on the phone and emails. I also noticed surveillance in the vicinity of my properties.

“Shortly after I was called to a meeting I can’t give details about, but I can say that from that moment I was forced to agree to run some ‘errands’ I would be informed about when the time came. The first one and therefore the only one concerned the bags. That money is not mine.

“When I said before that the money had political origins it is because I was told so. But what I really meant was the money was from people with political links, whom I cannot talk about. It is not one person, but several, and I don’t exactly know who they are, nor do I want to.”

“The task I was given consisted in taking those bags to the convent, which I knew about and to which I had unrestricted access, with the understanding that from there they were going to be gradually taken to another destination. The nuns from the convent did not need to be given details as they busied themselves with prayer and penance, so there was no need to talk to them. And the only one I talked to was Mother Alba.

“I didn’t arrive at the place alone. I was escorted by two people: one on a motorbike and the other one in a car. They were not mere escorts, they are the people who gave me the money I had to deliver and followed me the whole way to ensure control. This was the reason I left the engine running while I made the delivery.

“The money left in the car was being guarded by those people. I did not know those [them], but they must have been security personnel. My wife never knew anything about this, nor was she aware of what I would do that night.

“What was seized that night does not belong to me, it belongs to other people whose identities I cannot reveal and my involvement in the delivery to the convent was forced. Their evident interest in having me take care of this issue had to do with the fact that they felt like they were being followed or observed and therefore exposed me so as not to be left exposed themselves. To this day, I regret not having had enough clarity and strength to have resisted the pressure put on me. In any case, It would have been me who would have faced the worst consequences, and not the rest of my family.”