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News Link • Argentina

How a Chauffeur Could Bring Down Argentina's Political Elite

•, Patrick Gillespie

On Aug. 1, Argentine newspaper La Nacion published an investigation that detailed alleged bribes from business executives to officials in the former governments of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. Evidence in the eight notebooks, kept from 2005 to 2015 by the chauffeur of a former government official, have led to the arrests of more than a dozen men. And Kirchner could be next.

1. What was in the chauffeur's notebooks?
Oscar Centeno, the driver for former planning secretary Roberto Baratta, kept meticulous notes for 10 years with details of bribes that he delivered. His notebooks include names, amounts, addresses and dates, including bribes allegedly delivered to Kirchner's homes in Buenos Aires. It's not known why Centeno kept the records. The notebooks chronicled about $53 million in bribes.

2. How did they come to light?
Centeno gave the notebooks to a friend when his former boss, Baratta, was about to go to jail last year on separate charges. And the friend decided on his own in January to give copies of them to La Nacion journalist Diego Cabot, who led the investigation. After the news report came out, Centeno said he burned the notebooks on his grill.

3. Who's implicated?
So far, a dozen men -- a mix of former government officials and business leaders -- have been detained. A handful of others have confessed to paying bribes and struck plea bargains with prosecutors. A growing list of current and former business executives, including one from engineering giant Techint, have been arrested. The broader scope of the investigation is unknown because the case is under seal and charges haven't been formally announced.

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