Argentina 2019
4 Days Before the Argentine Election, a Puzzling Corruption Case Against Cristina Kirchner Revives
A number of mysterious notebooks supposedly detailing the bribes received by the former president and current VP candidate appeared after they were believed to have been incinerated.

The original bribes notebooks belonging to driver Oscar Centeno appeared just four days before the Argentine election and are now in the possession of federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli.

Last year, Centeno revealed that, as a driver for the administrations of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, part of his duties was to move millions of dollars in suitcases. These were alleged bribes from businessmen to the presidency. Centeno supposedly documented many of these movements (hours, places, officials involved) in notebooks that never came up, until this week, days before Alberto Fernandez and Cristina Kirchner face against President Mauricio Macri at the ballot box, where they have a decisive advantage.

According to newspaper La Nación, on Wednesday journalist Diego Cabot handed Stornelli six of the eight notebooks belonging to the former driver of detainee Roberto Baratta, who was a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services during the Kirchner administration. The journalist said that he received the notebooks from an anonymous source in Núñez.

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Cabot testified before the prosecutor and recounted the circumstances of the encounter in which he received the supposedly original notebooks, which were believed to have been burned.

Cabot is the same journalist that, in 2018, provided the Justice Department with photocopies of the notebooks written by Centeno, with details of bribes paid by businessmen to former government officials. According to Cabot's account, on Tuesday night a person received the material in a shop located about 15 blocks from the newspaper's editorial office. The photocopies of the original notebooks gave rise to an investigation, which is currently on trial, in which Cristina Kirchner is the main defendant.

"I burned them on the grill in the back of my house," Centeno had testified in August of last year before Judge Claudio Bonadio, who later turned him into a protected witness. For that reason the case of the notebooks had advanced so far with photocopies that the Justice had taken as valid.

Cabot with Prosecutor Stornelli (La Nación Twitter)

Sources close to the case told LPO that Centeno, by declaring as "repentant witness", cannot lie. His testimony may now be attacked by the defendants, including not only the former president but also the most powerful businessmen in the country. The investigation was born based on the written word of Centeno, the first repentant of the case. A false testimony could lead to the annulment of the case, which is what the defendants will seek.

It is not a minor detail that Stornelli is the one who has received the notebooks. The prosecutor has been declared in contempt for not appearing before judge Alejo Ramos Padilla in another case related to espionage in which Marcelo D'Alessio was arrested.

The case is in the hands of the Federal Oral Tribunal (TOF) N° 7, made up of Herminio Fernando Canero, Enrique Méndez Signori and Germán Castelli.

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According to La Nación, the Justice Department has already confirmed that the notebooks are original. This makes it possible for an expert analysis to be made on the original notebooks to determine the date in which they were written.

"It is the closing of Macri's campaign," they told LPO from Kirchner's camp. Sergio Massa, the first candidate for deputy of the Frente de Todos, told the press that "it is unusual that four days before the election the notebooks stop being ashes and appear. "The government throws punches all the time because it faces the people's refrigerator," he said. 

The Macri administration declared that they had "nothing to do" with the striking emergence of the notebooks.

"The government has nothing to do with it," said Minister of Justice Germán Garavano, who also clarified that the appearance of notebooks believed to have been burned "has no electoral interference," when asked if he believes it will benefit Mauricio Macri in Sunday's elections.

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