A minister in the former Argentinean government of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been arrested for allegedly trying to hide cash worth millions in a monastery near Buenos Aires. Nuns at the Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima religious community, around 55km west of the capital Buenos Aires, reportedly saw Jose Lopez throwing plastic bags over a wall, officials said.
Police first detained the former public works minister for alleged illegal possession of a .22 calibre rifle and then discovered several bags of cash in different currencies, which local media reports speculated to be worth around $7m (£5m). Police also found watches in packages inside the bags and seized more cash from his car. The seized cash was in dollars, yen, euros and other currencies. Lopez is now facing an investigation into alleged money-laundering.
"He was caught red-handed with six bags, a suitcase, a weapon and he was later identified as a public works minister, Jose Lopez, from the previous government," Cristian Ritondo, the Buenos Aires provincial security chief, was quoted by the BBC as saying. Ritondo confirmed that Lopez was initially arrested for possessing a weapon, but is now in custody for "possible money laundering or suspected money laundering". Several other government officials are being investigated for alleged money-laundering.
Police first interrogated the former minister at a police station in Buenos Aires and then took him away under armed guard. He was seen wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest when being taken into custody.
"It's almost out of a movie,'' said Marcos Pena, President Mauricio Macri's cabinet chief. The current president has vowed to eliminate corruption from the country.
"We're shocked because it's not a minor official. He led public works... where we saw so much daily corruption,'' Pena is quoted as saying.