An Argentine judge has charged ex president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner former planning minister in a case involving Brazilian company Odebrecht. Argentina's official Judicial Information Center says that Julio De Vido was charged Tuesday with carrying out incompatible deals while in public office.
It says De Vido is suspected of illegally favoring Odebrecht on multi-million-dollar contracts, estimated in US$ 2.3 billion, for the construction of liquefied natural gas projects. The charges could carry up to six years in prison.
Odebrecht officials have acknowledged paying bribes in numerous countries across the hemisphere.
De Vido turned himself to authorities in October after the lower house of Congress voted to remove his immunity from being detained. He is also being probed for possible embezzlement in another case involving a coal mine in Patagonia.
Magistrate Daniel Rafecas said in his sentencing that De Vido sponsored actions benefitting Odebrecht, as well as former Energy Secretary Daniel Cameron, who has also been sentenced.
Rafecas indicated that according to administration documents the whole bidding process was geared from the very beginning to deliver the contract to Odebrecht, including a memorandum of understanding between the Brazilian construction conglomerate and the Energy Secretariat favoring Odebrecht.
De Vido was the mastermind behind the necessary administrative framework for what was a limited bidding process involving Cammesa a public-private energy company which finally awarded the contract to Odebrecht in a highly suspicious process.
Magistrate Rafecas detailed that the process took off in 2005 when Odebrecht CEO in Argentina Flavio Bento Faria, sent a letter to the Argentine government (the president then was Nestor Kirchner), expressing its intention of having the company participate in the multi million contracts. Bidding conditions were then modified to favor the Brazilian company.
The bidding process for the natural gas pipelines had as interested parties two other local companies, Camargo Correa and Benito Roggio which are also involved in this and other corruption suspicious deals since they acted as a cartel in obtaining public works contracts in Argentina. The alleged competition in the process was merely formal and apparent, pointed out the resolution.
Finally magistrate Rafecas underlined that given the size of the contract and the territorial extension of the gas pipelines it was practically impossible for De Vido and Cameron not to be knowledgeable about the whole deal.
This is the first sentencing case in Argentina of the major corruption scandal to skim Brazil's oil company Petrobras, and where Odebrecht played a leading role with its payroll list of unfaithful officials and politicians. According to Buenos Aires tribunal sources resolutions affecting other public works contracts in Argentina are in the pipeline and should be made public any moment.