Notebooks kept by driver provide key evidence in Argentina graft probe

World Today

Former President Cristina Fernandez leaves a court hearing after presenting a brief in which she claims that she is wrongly accused in an investigation of alleged corruption, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. Fernandez was called to the court as part of a corruption probe sparked by the recent release of an investigation on illicit dealings during the governments of the ex-president and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

A corruption scandal is rocking Argentina involving allegations of bribes and kickbacks to government officials – in exchange for lucrative business contracts.

First detailed by an Argentinian newspaper, the corruption allegedly took place during the governments of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband Nestor Kirchner. As a result, authorities have carried out raids and arrested at least a dozen businessmen and former government officials.

CGTN’s Joel Richards explains.

It has become known as the ‘notebook scandal’ – because of the evidence contained inside a series of journals kept by a former driver employed by the Argentine government. Inside, his hand-written details of journeys in which he says he ferried tens of millions of dollars in bribe money from business leaders to high-ranking officials of the Kirchner administrations.

The allegations reach the very top. This week former Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner appeared in court, summoned to give testimony in the case. She declined to speak but in a written statement, denied any involvement.

The case, sparked by investigative reporting by La Nation newspaper – which obtained the driver notebooks – has also produced what’s become a long line of prosecution ‘collaborators’ — business leaders seeking plea bargains.

Many analysts are suggesting that the sheer scale of this investigation means that this could become Argentina’s lava jato, a reference to the far-reaching corruption scandal in Brazil known as Carwash that affected the business and political class alike.

Beyond the notebook scandal, political financing has also come under scrutiny in recent weeks. Buenos Aires province governor Maria Eugenia Vidal announced an audit of campaign contributions after an investigation by another media outlet alleged money laundering…And then fired the party treasurer.

Despite similarities to Brazil’s Car Wash scandal, Delia Ferreira of Transparency International says she’s concerned about a sense of apathy in Argentina.

Latin American nations have dealt with major corruption scandals differently. For now, in Argentina, it is the courts now leading investigations, after accusations of looking the other way for many years.