BUENOS AIRES – The Notebooks’ case, the biggest corruption scandal in Argentine history incriminating former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of bribery, has become a documentary movie.
“La historia secreta de los cuadernos” (the hidden secret of the notebooks), now available online, reveals previously undisclosed details of an investigation by journalist Diego Cabot (La Pampa, 1970) who published his report in La Nacion newspaper.
“Up to a certain point, our lives changed,” Cabot told EFE.
The case hit Argentina a year ago when an investigation revealed that Fernandez de Kirchner favored businessman Lazaro Baez in the attribution of 52 public works contracts worth $1.2 billion during her presidency.
In the early hours of Aug. 1, 2018, Fernandez de Kirchner (president between 2007-2015), former high-profile public officials during the presidency of her husband Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and well-known businessmen were arrested and accused of being part of a bribe network.
The beneficiaries of the bribes worth millions were Fernandez de Kirchner, her husband, and the Minister of Planning and Public Investment, Julio De Vido, according to the judicial investigation.
The case is still open pending an oral hearing.
Cabot started his investigation with the help of two of his university students, Santiago Nasra and Candela Ini, in January 2018.
Some notebooks, photographs, and videos made by Oscar Centeno, who worked as De Vido’s and his deputy secretary, Roberto Baratta’s chauffeur, made their way into his hands.
This information was crucial for the case: the chauffeur registered how he had handed bags bursting with banknotes from several entrepreneurs to members of the government during a decade.
Cabot considers the Notebooks case the most important of his career.
“The man who gave me the notebooks was a friend of the famous chauffeur and my neighbor for several years,” the journalist said.
“He approached me for the first time because he had read one of my books.”
Cabot doubted about his source and Centeno’s real intentions.
Together with the two students, he verified data and cars’ number plates to make sure that the story was true before publishing it.
“It wasn’t an isolated corruption case.
“It wasn’t about a disobedient public worker tempted with several zeros on a bank check from a businessman.
“It was an organized and permanent system with very strong names in it.
“We used to work from 10 in the morning to 3-4 at night,” Cabot added.
In early March 2018, Cabot planned to publish all the information about the case, but Centeno recovered the original notebooks and burnt them.
Cabot had already made some copies of the material when he contacted prosecutor Carlos Stonelli and judge Claudio Bonadio.
By that time Stonelli and Bonadio were investigating several cases the Kirshner’s were allegedly involved in.
Once Bonadio started the investigation, the newspaper La Nacion decided to publish it.
Last April, the work was prized with the King of Spain Press Award, issued by EFE and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.