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Argentina remains a witness of corruption even when culprits confess

Tuesday, April 26th 2022 - 09:58 UTC
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Bribes were referred to as “alfajores,” a typical Argentine “mini cake” . Photo: Pixabay / Cristhian Cabrera Bribes were referred to as “alfajores,” a typical Argentine “mini cake” . Photo: Pixabay / Cristhian Cabrera

Argentina's judiciary system continues to be a mere witness to corruption practices even after those bribing local officials have admitted to their doings in foreign jurisdictions, it was reported Monday by a Buenos Aires newspaper.

Stericycle, a waste collection and treatment company, has confessed to handing out bribes to Argentine officials between 2011 and 2016, thus becoming the 12th firm to acknowledge such practices to obtain millionaire contracts in different parts of the country.

The company admitted to making those payments in Argentina between 2011 and 2016, and also in Brazil and Mexico, after reaching an agreement with the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to pay fines of US$80 million, plus another US$9.3 million in Brazil.

In Argentina, Stericycle became the 12th such business to escape Justice after admitting to their crimes in a foreign jurisdiction, allowing all Argentine officials involved -reportedly of provincial jurisdiction- to go unpunished.

The list of companies that admitted to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) includes IBM, Ralph Lauren, Odebrecht, LAN, Siemens and Ferrostaal, Stryker Corporation, Helmerich & Payne, Ball, Biomet, and Dallas Airmotive.

“The mechanisms against economic crime were not and are not applied in the country to continue with the prosecution and trial of this type of cases,” Nicolás Macchione, member of the steering committee of the Center for Research and Prevention of Economic Crime (Cipce) told La Nación.

“Impunity is total. Individuals are not prosecuted and the proceeds of crime are not recovered. In the comparative practices of the control agencies [of other countries] at least there are administrative sanctions, here not even that,” he added.

“Responsibility for impunity is not alien” to any branch of government, he went on.

Macchione also explained how prosecutors did very little to nothing, and when action is taken judges might wait up to 14 years before delivering a verdict, in addition to the fact that control agencies from the Executive “have old tools and do not apply them.”

The Legislature only steps in when it comes down to tax evasion, the analyst also pointed out.

There are areas of the Public Prosecutor's Office -La Nación said- such as Procelac, but they are disregarded locally by companies such as Siemens, even after confessing to malfeasances both in Germany and the United States.

“Odebrecht admitted in Brazil and the United States that it paid bribes in Argentina for at least US$35 million, and some of its top executives - such as its former vice-president Luiz Antonio Mameri - confessed that the bribes went to the entourage of then Minister Julio De Vido, with the help of businessman Carlos Wagner and lobbyist Jorge ”Corcho“ Rodriguez,” La Nación elaborated. But there are no convictions in Argentina.

According to the Buenos Aires daily, bribes were referred to as “alfajores,” a typical Argentine “mini cake” or simply “alfa,” but “IP” -the acronym for “Incentive Payments”- would also do.

Stericycle accepted responsibility for corrupt business practices and kept “false books and records” to camouflage its cash payments made under the table, DOJ Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr explained.

In Argentina, Stericycle is alive and kicking, operating under the name SGA Environmental SA, despite its corrupt practices, which are likely to continue in a country where “the criminal policy in these cases is impunity,” according to Macchione. (Source: La Nación)

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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