A former top government official, already under investigation of suspected money laundering, is now having to explain to Argentine investigators what he was doing throwing bags of cash over the walls of a monastery.
"We found an obscene amount of cash at the convent, where neighbors and even the nuns living there told us that a lot of officials from the previous government had visited," Buenos Aries security chief Cristian Ritondo told reporters. "He was caught red handed. He tried to bribe one of the officers and the bribe was rejected."
Police arrested former deputy public works minister José López on Tuesday morning while tossing bag after bag with dollars, euros, yens and Qatari riyals into the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic monastery in Buenos Aires.
Ritondo said that by late Tuesday the cash that had been counted totaled nearly 9 million dollars. He said the count continued. López was also in possession of large amounts of jewellery, luxury watches, and a rifle.
After a night in jail, López — who served as a top public works official in the governments of former presidents Néstor Kirchner and his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — was taken to make a formal declaration before Argentine prosecutors on Wednesday.
Asked by a reporter what kind of condition the former official was in, police chief Ritondo said: "He's depressed."
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The case is the latest in a series of probes to focus on alleged corruption of figures linked to the Kirchner governments. These have gathered steam since Cristina Fernández was replaced as Argentine president by right-winger Mauricio Macri in December.
"He has to explain," Macri's Cabinet chief, Marcos Peña, told reporters. "López managed everything that had to do with public works under the previous government. This confirms there were enormous problems with transparency, at least, and at most, serious corruption."
Peña added that at one point López told nuns at the scene that he had stolen the money and was planning to donate the cash to the monastery.
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