An official of the Upper Chamber confessed he distributed US$ 5 million among senators in 2000 to pass a crucial law fueled by the then-President Fernando De la Rua. The case may spark a "mani pulite" process in the South American country.
Mario Potaquarto, a former official at the National Congress, confessed what had been an open secret since April 2000: the government of Fernando De la Rua paid bribes to a number of Senators to pass a law that restricted labor rights. The case led to the resignation of the then vice-president Carlos Chacho Alvarez and sparked a political crisis that precipitated the end with De la Rua's rule one and a half year later.
Pontaquarto told a local magazine and then declared to the Justice that he distributed US$ 5 million in cash among a list of senators of the opposition and the ruling party, following the orders of two of them: Jose Genoud and Augusto Alasino. According to Pontaquarto, the arrangement had been made at President Fernando De la Rua's office in the presidential palace. De la Rua, Pontaquarto, Genoud, Alasino and the Labor minister, Alberto Flamarique took part of the meeting.
According to Pontaquarto, senators told De la Rua that they would support the bill "by other means", so the President replied that they should talk to the chief of the Argentine Intelligence Services, Fernando De Santibaсes. The secretary of Intelligence, prepared the payment using "reserved funds" and contacted Pontaquarto to pay bribes to the senators.
Pontaquarto declared before judge Mario Opyarbide for more than three hour and was released from prision. At the same time, center-left deputies asked for the immediate prosecution of those senators and former government’s officials involved in the case. As such, Mr. Oyarbide instructed the police to arrest all the acussed officials if they are caught trying to leave the country. Among the included in Oyarbide’s list are: country’s former Labor minister, Alberto Flamarique; former Nat. Senators, Jose Genoud and Augusto Alasino and the ex president Fernando De la Rua.
Nestor Kirchner’s current administration celebrated Pontaquarto’s declaration. “It is a glorious day for our country”, told chief of Cabinet, Alberto Fernandez during a news conference. Former De la Rua’s vice-president, Carlos Alvarez also expressed his satisfaction on the news.
PRAVDA.Ru sources in the Nat. Senate confirmed the information: “It was an open secret. I remember that at that time everybody talked about the bribes”, told a former employee at the Congress. “The Senator I was working for did not take part on the bribes, but he was sure they took place”, he said.
The bribes scadal involved a number of former senators and two current governors supported by president Kirchner in last elections. They are: Jose Luis Gioja, from the Western province of San Juan and Carlos Verna, from the Southern province of La Pampa. Kirchner’s spokesmen asked for the prosecution of all those involved in the scandal.