Argentina backs spy chief accused of corruption in Brazil
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s government on Friday backed its spy chief after Brazilian authorities accused him of involvement in a money laundering scheme that is part of the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil’s history.
Federal police in Brazil accuse spy chief Gustavo Arribas of receiving $850,000 in a scheme involving front companies in several cities. According to the investigation, the money left Brazil and passed through a bank account in Hong Kong before it arrived to an account linked to Arribas in Argentina.
The money was allegedly sent by financial operators who have been arrested in a massive corruption investigation centered on construction company Odebrecht. Brazil’s so-called “Car Wash” probe has led to the jailing of dozens of business leaders and politicians.
Argentine Cabinet chief Marcos Pena said the government fully supports Arribas. He also asked for the “prudence” to look further into the details of the accusations. In a statement, Arribas denied any wrongdoing and said he has “no type of link with the so-called Car Wash or the recent Operation Discard.”
Last year, a federal judge cleared Arribas of wrongdoing after reports linked him for to the Car Wash investigation.
Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper had reported that Odebrecht paid Arribas nearly $600,000 in 2013 through a black market money dealer who has since accepted a plea bargain.
La Nacion alleged the money was deposited into a Swiss bank account. Arribas denied the reports and said he only received $70,000 as part of a real estate deal in Brazil.
In a separate ongoing probe related to the Car Wash scandal, a black market money dealer who accepted a plea bargain said that Odebrecht and OAS companies paid Arribas nearly $850,000 in bribes in 2013.
Back then, Arribas worked as an agent and broker for soccer players in Brazil. He was already a personal friend of Mauricio Macri, who was president of one of Argentina’s most popular soccer clubs before he became the country’s leader. Macri, who vowed to fight Argentina’s entrenched corruption, appointed Arribas after he took office in 2015 and has publicly defended him from the accusations.
Car Wash investigators say more than $2 billion in bribes were paid out in a kickback scheme that was centered at Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and included major builders like Odebrecht. The scandal has spread across Latin America.