Argentine federal judge Claudio Bonadio has charged a total of 12 former public officials and business executives with close ties to the administrations of the late Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015), with being part of a criminal association involving public works contracts.
The criminal association was headed by the Kirchners to "organize a system of collection of funds to receive money illegally with the aim of illegal enrichment and to use part of these funds to carry out other crimes," Bonadio says in the accusation.
The money was allegedly collected by Kirchner and Fernández directly or via their private secretaries at their official residence and part of it was subsequently distributed to other public officials. The collection and drop-off of the monies were documented by the driver of one of the officials under arrest, in what has now become known as the "corruption notebook" scandal.
The business executives arrested last week include Electroingeniería owner Jorge Neira, former Iecsa CEO Javier Sánchez, former Enarsa president Walter Fagyas and the head of the Albanesi group, Armando Loson.
All of these companies are or were involved with projects that were awarded during the Fernández de Kirchner administration and some of the works are still under execution. However, sources in President Mauricio Macri's administration told daily La Nación that they would have to wait until court verdicts are issued and sentences handed down before being able to take action regarding these contracts.
Government sources claim that in the energy sector alone, in which many of the firms under the spotlight are involved, the corruption scandal could have compromised projects worth some US$22bn in total, although some of the contracts have already been rescinded or canceled.
One of the most important projects caught up in the allegations is the Cóndor Cliff-Barrancosa hydro project. Under construction since last year, this US$4.7bn project is being carried out by a joint venture compromised of Electroingeniería and Chinese engineering firm China Gezhouba Group Corp (CGGC).
The project entails the construction of two dams on the Santa Cruz river in the province of the same name - coincidentally the Kirchners' home province - each powering one hydroelectric plant. The first dam, Cóndor Cliff, will be 70m tall and 1,900m wide, and will channel water to a power plant with a capacity of 950MW via five turbines.
The second dam, Barrancosa, will be 45m tall and 2,700m wide. The plant will have an installed capacity of 360MW with three turbines.
The project also includes a 500kV transmission line that will run for 170km.
Also being investigated is the project to convert the Sarmiento rail line into an underground line. Underway since 2016, Iecsa was originally awarded the US$3bn project back in 2008, but the works have been dogged by controversy. Back in 2016, Macri issued a decree to allocate more funds and allow Iecsa to contract Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and other firms to carry out construction works and provide equipment.
The initiative, which entails turning 18km of the Sarmiento rail line in capital Buenos Aires into an underground line, has also come under the gaze of the investigations into the Odebrecht bribery scandal, with former executives of the Brazilian firm having admitted paying bribes in relation to this project.
Until March 2017, Iecsa was owned by Macri's cousin Ángelo Calcaterra who, following the recent wave of arrests, decided to collaborate with the investigation alongside the now-detained former CEO the firm, Javier Sánchez.
Judicial sources told daily Clarín that Calcaterra has admitted to judge Bonadio that financial payments were made to the Kirchners' affiliate party, FpV, in 2013 and 2015.
Also under investigation is the Manuel Belgrano II thermoelectric plant, which was awarded to Electroingeniería back in 2014. Construction works on the US$1bn project have still not yet started.
The Arroyo Seco thermoelectric cogeneration plant is under suspicion too. This US$395mn contract was awarded to a subsidiary of the Albanesi group, Generación Mediterranea, in September 2017. The works were underway as of March 2018, according to the federal energy ministry. The project entails the construction of a 120MW thermoelectric cogeneration plant in Santa Fe province.