Argentina President’s Office Embroiled in Precursor Chemical Trafficking Scandal

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The president’s office in Argentina has become ensnared in a drug production precursor chemical trafficking scandal as the high level corrupt contacts that facilitate the trade are revealed in an ongoing investigation.

On August 29, Judge Maria Servini de Cubria told Mitre Radio she was investigating phone calls made between officials in the presidential residence, the “Casa Rosada” (Pink House) and the Zacarias family, which has ties to the administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and has been implicated in trafficking ephedrine — a chemical used for methamphetamine production

Servini said she had requested the General Secretary of the Presidency, Oscar Parrilli, identify the officials who used the telephone numbers, and threatened to order a raid on the Casa Rosada if Parrilli failed to comply.

Three days later, Parrilli publically identified the officials who were in charge of the offices linked to the phone numbers during the period between 2004 and 2008, which included two former vice presidents, two former cabinet chiefs and Parrilli himself, reported Urgente 24.

InSight Crime Analysis

In July, six former officials of Argentine anti-drug agency Sedronar, including former director Jose Ramon Granero, were accused of facilitating the importation of ephedrine by changing the documentation on the intended use of the substance.

The alleged involvement of members of the Zacarias family in the scheme is bad news for the Kirchner administration. Maximo Zacarias was implicated in the trafficking network after a former Sedronar employee accused him of participating in the importation of 1000 kilos of ephedrine. His brother Miguel was Granero’s private secretary, his brother Ruben was the former chief of protocol in the Government Ministry, and his brother Luis works in President Kirchner’s Private Secretary.    

Although there is currently no evidence linking the president to the ephedrine trafficking network, both Cristina Kirchner and her predecessor and husband, the late Nestor Kirchner, have faced past accusations of their ties to the illegal trade in precursor chemicals. Pharmaceutical companies were some of the Kirchners’ biggest campaign funders, and many of their donors have alleged links with the drug trade and Mexican cartels (pdf). 

Argentina is a major producer and transit point for chemicals used to produce cocaine and methamphetamine, partly because of lax regulations on substances like ephedrine. While the extent of the current government’s involvement in the ephedrine trafficking scandal has yet to be determined, the current case points to political protection as one factor contributing to the country’s role in precursor trafficking. 

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