Argentina is going through a major corruption case linked back to their former president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. According to the case, Kirchner used a number of real estate agents to launder money that she got through illicit means. Four people have been arrested in Argentina based on the case.
The four arrested include an Argentine national who worked in international real estate, her ex-husband, a fashion manufacturer with ties back to the former Argentine president, and a businessman who traveled regularly between Florida and Argentina. The Argentine national had established an office in South Florida.
Where did these alleged illicit funds come from? According to the Argentine Federal Police, Kirchner accepted bribes from multiple construction companies. In exchange, the former president gave companies government construction contracts.
This would normally be pretty hard to prove, or at least to narrow down the exact amount that the former president received. However, this case has a unique twist.
All of the known bribes were delivered to Kirchner’s house by the same person, a driver. This driver was aware of what he was transporting in bags and took very detailed notes. The Argentine Federal Police have managed to get the driver to cooperate and as such, have access to all of his notes, along with testimony.
Attorneys, family, and friends of Kirchner are saying the charges being brought against the former president are politically motivated. It wouldn’t be the first case to be politically motivated but the government has evidence and witnesses, a big positive in their case.
In the notes taken by the delivery man, it included names for people who accepted Kirchner’s deliveries when she was not present.
Kirchner’s former aid, though now deceased, has been suspected of keeping some of the money from the bags. This is unclear.
Illicit management of funds isn’t the only crime that the former president has been accused of. In December of 2017, a federal judge in Argentina indicted Kichner for treason and covering up information about a 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.
Where did all of the bribe money go? Not all of the money has been accounted for due to the fact that it was illicit money, but a good amount of the money has likely gone into the real estate market in the United States.
According to the investigation that has been conducted, Kirchner and her late husband owned millions of dollars worth of real estate around the United States. Specifically real estate in the Florida and New York City areas. When buying said real estate, the Kirchner’s didn’t appear to be that picky. Properties owned by Kirchner include homes, mansions, corporate buildings, and retail spaces. Specialized buildings such as banks and pharmacies have also been traced back to their holdings.
All of the properties owned by Kirchner were purchased by a Florida company that is registered to her real estate accomplice and her ex-husband.
While owning property on its own isn’t necessarily suspicious, owning this amount of property without having any documented way to buy them is a sign that an investigation probably is warranted. Authorities have asked for an explanation of how Kirchner and her accomplices were able to afford the properties and no satisfactory answer has been produced.
The Argentine media has stated that their government has been working with the United States government to investigate the accusations that illicit money was utilized to make housing purchases in the United States. This is likely as it is common practice in complex cases that spread countries. However, the US Department of Justice will neither confirm nor deny that they have been working with the Argentine government.
Properties owned by Kirchner and her associates in the United States have all been sold. In order to seize assets then, either government will have to track down the revenues from the various property sales.
Kirchner has not been arrested in connection with this case. Kirchner currently serves the Argentine government as a Senator, that makes her immune from arrest. In order for her to be arrested, the senate has to meet. She is not immune from indictment though.
That being said, the four people who have been arrested are still sitting in jail. Three out of the four have been sitting in jail since October but charges have yet to have been pressed.
Unlike the United States, the Argentine government is not required to indict individuals in order to hold them more than 24 hours.
Originally, no one besides the bribe courrier was cooperating with law enforcement. It has now been said that the realtor involved in the case has been working with the government to aid in the prosecution. This is despite her having originally stated to the media that she had no clue what happened. Since she has blamed her ex-husband for the whole situation.
In exchange for cooperating with the investigation, she has been released from custody.
One thing to note is that the real estate agent involved in the case is not licensed to sell homes in Florida. That said, it is legal to work under someone else’s license as a third party, which is what she was doing. Despite selling her properties in the United States, the real estate agent has continued to make regular monthly payments to the broker whose license she used.
Even with the on going payments, her real estate company’s office in Florida has been shut down. The United States version of her business’s website has been changed to say “under construction” and the listings have since been removed.
The broker whose license she was using has stated that he was unaware that she had done anything wrong while using his license. He plans to discontinue the allowance for her to use his license but has admitted that she still owes him money.
Kirchner’s real estate agent’s ex-husband has attempted to cooperate with the Argentine government under the condition that he be granted lesser charges. The judge denied this.
Kirchner’s former aid is now dead and his widow denies having any knowledge of the whole scheme. She says that her husband participated on his own and she now feels “deceived.”
Other parties who have potentially participated in the scheme are still at large and wanted by the Argentine government. Their arrest could be the break in the case that is needed to bring more closure.
Argentina has asked for two people involved in the case to be extradited from the United States. There is no officially released details on whether or not this will happen. The US Department of Justice says it doesn’t comment on extradition cases.
It is important that we mention this is still an ongoing case. The investigation is ongoing and new facts are always emerging. With that in mind, all suspects in the United States and many other countries are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
This case may be large and involve a lot of players but it isn’t the only case of illicit use of funds to purchase property in Florida. Illicit purchases harm everyone and that is one of the reasons the state government (Florida) and the US government have been working hard to stop money laundering in the real estate market. That includes by passing new laws, better enforcement, and by conducting research.
Over the next few years this case is going to continue to develop. The Argentine government likely wants to put a quick end to the case but it is complex and there is much investigating left to do. Finding the rest of the parties involved is also a crucial next step. The only thing that will bring this case to an end? Time.