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Brazilian financier: ‘Arribas received US$850,000 in bribes’

Gustavo Arribas in a file photo from January 2017.
Gustavo Arribas in a file photo from January 2017.
Gustavo Arribas in a file photo from January 2017.

Leonardo Meirelles tells prosecutors that 10 transfers made to AFI chief

The head of the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI), Gustavo Arribas, was paid US$ 850,000 in bribes from Brazilian companies, a key witness asserted yesterday before Argentine federal prosecutors in a video-conference.

Leonardo Meirelles, a Brazilian doleiro (illegal financial operator), worsened the judicial situation of Arribas, a close ally of President Mauricio Macri who had been cleared in the case by Federal Judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral on March 31. Canicoba’s ruling was appealed by Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado and special prosecutor for Administrative Investigations, Sergio Rodríguez. Both managed to question Meirelles yesterday in another case related to the Brazilian graft investigation Lava Jato (Car Wash). As Meirelles said he has nothing to say over the water sanitation plant in Paraná de las Palmas, where Brazilian mammoth Odebrecht is suspected of paying bribes, he added he could give details on the first accusation over Arribas that had been released by a Peruvian web site and the La Nación newspaper last summer.

The conservative newspaper reported on January 11 that Arribas had received US$594,000 divided in five transfers to his bank account in Credit Suisse in Zurich, Switzerland. The transfers took place in September, 2013, and began a day after a deal with Odebrecht over the tunnelling of Sarmiento train line had been re-activated. With certain delay as he was on holidays and including several contradictions, Arribas released a statement in which he admitted only one transfer of US$70,475 and offered an email sent by his bank as evidence for the case. It was part of a real estate operation, he said.

However, that evidence was never incorporated into the case, a source close to prosecutors told the Herald yesterday.

In February, Arribas denied “emphatically having received other transfers” and any ties to “Odebrecht company, Leonardo Meirelles, Alberto Youssef or any other person involved in the Lava Jato investigation.”

President Macri strongly backed his ally (who rents president’s aparment in BA City) and said he was not able to understand what the links were between the transfers and the Car Wash scheme. In the same vein, the Financial Information Unit (UIF) reported it didn’t find any wrongdoing in Arribas’ accounts.

With the UIF report, controversial Judge Canicoba Corral cleared Arribas. But yesterday Meirelles said that Intelligence head had been bribed with US$850,000 not in five but rather 10 transfers, and that the money could have arrived to two bank accounts in Switzerland. Meirelles was one of the managers of RFY Import & Export, a company based in Hong Kong, created by Odebrecht for graft schemes all over the world. He said to Argentine prosecutors that all the evidence of the bank deposits are held by Brazilian courts, so sources close to the prosecutors told the Herald that they will request their Brazilian colleagues to share the documents.

Earlier this week, Odebrecht said it presented a leniency deal offer to Argentine judges on Tuesday as it seeks to settle investigations of its use of bribes to help secure lucrative contracts across Latin America.

In December, Odebrecht and petrochemical subsidiary Braskem SA settled with Brazilian, US and Swiss authorities a record fine of $3.5 billion (2.7 billion pounds). In that settlement, Odebrecht admitted to bribing officials in 12 countries, including $35 million in Argentina between 2007 and 2014.

Herald staff

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