Argentine Authorities Widen Casino Victoria Bribery Investigation

Posted on: November 30, 2023, 08:15h. 

Last updated on: November 30, 2023, 08:15h.

Earlier this month, Argentine authorities disclosed an investigation into Casino Victoria in Victoria, suspecting its involvement in a bribery scheme linked to former politician Martín Insaurralde. A search warrant was executed at the casino, resulting in the removal of records that investigators believe could unveil a significant bribery trail.

Martín Insaurralde and his ex-wife, Jesica Cirio, in a public photo
Martín Insaurralde and his ex-wife, Jesica Cirio, in a public photo. The two are at the center of a criminal investigation, along with a casino owner, in Argentina. (Image: Jésica Cirio via social media)

The individuals in the case, dubbed “YachtGate,” include Martín Insaurralde, the former Buenos Aires Province Cabinet Chief, and his ex-wife, television host Jésica Cirio. Insaurralde’s high-profile model girlfriend, Sofía Clérici, is also part of the investigation.

During the search at Casino Victoria, investigators stumbled upon invoices totaling ARS11.2 million (US$31,068), issued by the casino to a TV program Cirio produced in 2022. Both invoices, amounting to about ARS5.6 million (US$15,534) each, were marked as unpaid in the casino’s records.

Connecting the Dots

The TV program in question, titled “The Women of the National Team,” was broadcast in December 2022, coinciding with Argentina’s participation in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The authorities believe that the program may have played a role in securing and preserving Daniel Mautone’s control over gaming licenses. Mautone owns Casino Victoria, as well as a number of gaming halls throughout Buenos Aires.

Argentina’s Justice Department suspects that these invoices might constitute a concealed bribe to the former Buenos Aires chief of staff. Rumors suggest that Insaurralde clandestinely oversees the gaming business in the Buenos Aires province. He allegedly operates through a trusted official, Omar Galdurralde, who heads Buenos Aires’ gaming regulator, the Institute of Lottery and Casino.

Despite discovering the invoices, investigators have yet to determine the payment details. The invoices span from December 7 to 30, 2022, with no information on where the money was directed. Additionally, discrepancies exist between the reported payments by the casino and what the TV program allegedly received, prompting investigators to seek clarification.

The case unfolds as authorities face obstacles in accessing crucial evidence from Clérici’s cell phones, seized during search warrants at her residences in Tigre and Vicente López in October. Computer forensic specialists are attempting to unlock the phones as they examine two tablets and five thumb drives belonging to Insaurralde.

Investigators are currently leaning toward the crime of illicit enrichment, with insufficient evidence to support submitting money laundering charges. However, authorities anticipate collaboration from the US, suspecting that significant assets belonging to Cirio and Insaurralde might be hiding there.

Strong Ties Between Insaurralde and Mautone

Helping build the case against Insaurralde is evidence that has come to light about trips he made during his time as a government official. The investigation determined that Casino Victoria paid for a part of the large number of flights he took.

The Justice Department began to take a closer look at Insaurralde’s travel schedule and found that none of the trips were official. Therefore, the only conclusion is that he was making private trips, with Mautone footing the bill for them.

The authorities have yet to determine the nature of the trips; however, they suspect that they could be part of the covert bribe. As the investigation continues, they’ll be able to put more of the pieces together.

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