Enforcement: domestic bribery
Pursuant to the Federal Procedural Criminal Code, the federal criminal courts are in charge of investigations related to:
- violation of federal laws;
- fraud against any federal governmental assets;
- obstructing public officers' regular activities;
- crimes occurring within federal government public offices; and
- foreign bribery.
In the past five years the Federal Criminal Court has accelerated investigations related to corruption offences. Making headlines in July 2018, a high-profile investigation referred to by local media as 'The Notebooks case' involved many high-profile companies and businessmen in the public works sector and public officers of the former Kirchner administration (in office for 12 years until 2015). Around 100 individuals have appeared before federal criminal courts; some of them are currently in prison awaiting trial.
In addition, the former Secretary of Public Works, José López, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for the offence of unlawful enrichment. Mr López was found in the middle of the night of 14 June 2016 hiding bags of cash (worth around US$9 million) and weapons in a Catholic convent in General Rodríguez, in the province of Buenos Aires. The trial court ordered the seizure of all assets he illegally acquired during his time in office. In March and April 2020 the tribunal handling the case ordered the transfer of over US$3 million to the Ricardo Gutiérrez Children's Hospital, and over US$2 million to the Garraham Children's Hospital, from the seized money from Mr López's case. The money is intended to be used in order to meet different expenses that originated due to the coronavirus crisis. On 6 August 2021, the Federal Cassation Court confirmed the lower court sentence of seven years and six months' imprisonment for Mr López.
The current pandemic has triggered the need for a quick response from government authorities and consequently purchase processes to provide an adequate response to the situation. This has led to an increase in checks on direct purchases made throughout the crisis. In this context, cases of bribery or related unlawful acts have been identified in purchase processes, such as overpriced facemasks, booking hotels for the use of their beds, in which the directors were related to government officials, etc. These investigations are still ongoing.
In addition to Law No. 27,401, the Argentine Congress and the executive branch have enacted several laws and regulations to speed up corruption-related investigations and provide investigators with additional tools to prosecute acts of corruption. Among other regulations, the current legal framework includes Law No. 27,304 (i.e., whistle-blowing processes and whistle-blower protection programme); Law Nos. 27,307 and 27,308 (the reorganisation and simplification of courts); Decree No. 62/2019 (extinction of property rights on assets obtained from drug trafficking, smuggling, money laundering and corruption); and Decree No. 258/2019 (Anti-Corruption National Plan). The Anti-Corruption Office issued Resolution 27/2018 with guidelines on implementation of corporate compliance programmes. In relation to this, currently there is a Bill of Law under congressional debate that aims to reform the judiciary structure. There is no clear consensus among the parties over the proposal, and it is possible that this might eventually affect future and ongoing high profile cases involving bribes or money laundering, or both.
Moreover, within the framework of Law No. 27,401 regarding Corporate Criminal Liability, the Anticorruption Office has been entrusted with the design of an integrity and transparency registry, to contribute to the development, improvement and maturity of integrity programmes, to the exchange of good practice and to promote transparent environments in business and markets.
Enforcement: foreign bribery and associated offences
The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention entered into force in 1990. Argentina has been a member since 2000, along with 43 other countries. Every year, the OECD Working Group releases a study updated with prominent cases about the enforcement of anti-bribery laws. Some of the cases mentioned in the 2019 study of the OECD Working Group are Odebrecht SA (Brazil, Central and Latin America and Africa), Biomet (Argentina, Brazil, China and Mexico), Siemens AG (Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas), Embraer (Brazil) and Asfaltos (Chile). All these cases have been settled with non-trial resolutions.
In the same way, Argentina submitted a report to the OECD Working Group on 26 June 2019 implementing the recommendations of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The report lists cases of foreign bribery related to enforcement actions providing information on all ongoing investigations and prosecutions of bribery cases. Some include tax collection (Guatemala), oil-sector construction (Brazil), electricity transmission (Brazil), mapping system (Panama), grain export (Venezuela), oil refinery (Brazil), military horses (Bolivia), Consorcio Camisea (Peru), Contreras Hermanos (Brazil), Galileo Energy (Ecuador), Isolux (Bolivia), Tenaris (Brazil) and Unetel SA (El Salvador)