A US prosecutor in Montana state has launched an investigation into the alleged money laundering activities of Argentine currency exchange firm La Moneta, creating a possible precedent for US involvement in the ongoing case against Kirchner associate Lazaro Baez.
According to Assistant District Attorney Victoria Francis, between 2005 and 2012 La Moneta exchanged twenty thousand checks, with a total value of $24 million, at the New York branch of Argentina's Banco de la Nacion, as Clarin reported. While Moneta maintained that these operations were "totally legal," the prosecutor said that La Moneta used fake import payments from front companies to justify bringing in the funds from Argentina.
German Coppola, the reported owner of the front companies, and two Moneta shareholders, Francisco Pagano and Daniel Fumaroni, are accused of devising the money laundering scheme.
InSight Crime Analysis
As Clarin notes, the US attorney's investigation into La Moneta could serve as a precedent for US involvement in the Lazaro Baez case. Baez, a close friend of former president Nestor Kirchner, stands at the center of a convoluted web of money laundering and corruption accusations, now known as "Lazarogate." Investigative journalist Jorge Lanata has spearheaded the investigation into the scandal and gathered an increasing amount of evidence on shady financial dealings of Kirchner and his wife and current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
In an on-air interview with Lanata on May 5, Kirchner's former director of Presidential Communication, Miriam Quiroga, reported frequently seeing "bags of money" moving through the former president's office. The widening scandal, coupled with rising inflation, has caused the president's popularity to nosedive.
Notably, of the companies involved in the Baez case, Southern Globe Investments (SGI), also known as "La Rosadita," is owned by Helvetic Services Group, which has subsidiaries in the state of Nevada. Arguably, this could create an opportunity for the US to become involved in the investigation, as happened with the Moneta case. The former owner of SGI has admitted to Lanata that La Rosadita used front companies to move money out of Patagonia and into Swiss bank accounts, including funds controlled by Baez. In April, Switzerland opened its own investigation into the matter.