An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent.
The ex-Kirchnerite official, considered the right/hand man of ex Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido was caught by the police after neighbors and a nun of the Fatima monastery warned authorities about the presence of a man throwing bags over a dividing line of bushes.
Investigators estimate Lopez was carrying between US$5-8 million and that he was trying to hide them in a patio of the convent that is located in the San Carlos neighborhood of the Buenos Aires province locality. Furthermore, luxury watches and Euros were reportedly also inside the several bags and suitcases, and an automatic gun, he was apparently trying to hide.
The Parlasur lawmaker was arrested and taken to a police station of General Rodríguez following orders by Prosecutor Alejandra Rodríguez. Likewise Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas ordered Lopez formal arrest who is under investigation in reference to alleged illegal enrichment charges dating back to 2008.
The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges.
According to the reports a neighbor of the monastery contacted the police on 911, and two patrol cars rapidly arrived. Lopez was arrested with six bags and a suitcase stashed with dollars, Euros, Yuan and Qatar currency as well as very expensive watches (Rolex, Omega).
We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China's central bank, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security.
Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.
At first he told the officers he was planning to donate the funds to the nuns monastery. In effect one of the nuns interviewed said that Lopez had visited them the previous day and he was quite crazy, saying he had stolen the money which was to help the monastery, but today when he turned up and started dumping the bags, police arrested him. I told the officers he was a good man, he came once a year to visit us and would help us with donations of coffee and tea
Lopez was head of the Public Works Department under De Vido's Federal Planning Ministry with the governments of Nestor Kirchner and later in the eight years of Cristina Fernandez. According to his sworn assets statement, registered in Argentina's Anticorruption Office, the ex official had the equivalent of almost 2 million Pesos, approximately US$ 200.000, including seven properties, three in El Calafate, Patagonia; two in Rio Gallegos and two in Tucuman, his province of origin.
His immediate former boss architect De Vido is currently member of the Lower House Kirchnerite group, after spending most of his life in public service, first in Santa Cruz province when his boss Nestor Kirchner was governor and later in Buenos Aires when the couple moved to Casa Rosada. He is considered one of the closest and most trusted officers both of Nestor and Cristina Fernandez. De Vido is also under investigation in reference to all the contracts, bids and purchases of his ministry, which was responsible for distributing public works among the 'friendly' supportive provinces. He also managed the massive billions of dollars purchases of gas and oil for energy short Argentina.