Posted on: November 2, 2022, 09:05h.
Last updated on: November 2, 2022, 03:22h.
A Mexican national who describes himself as a sports betting sharp was apparently skilled at the art of money laundering as well. Argentina just extradited YouTuber Isaac Eugenio Esparza from Mexico in a case that runs all the way up the political ladder in the South American country.
The extradition of Esparza, who calls himself “Isaac E,” comes as a result of his links with an international money laundering network. That web extends across several countries, but allegedly began with the late Daniel Muñoz, who was the private secretary for former Argentina president Néstor Kirchner and his wife and current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The case dates back about 20 years, according to Argentina’s attorney general, when Esparza was part of a criminal association that organized a fundraising scheme. The scandal eventually became known as the Pandora Papers, a sequel to the Panama Papers.
End of the Line
Interpol arrested Esparza in December 2021 after they found him in Monterrey, Mexico, according to The Universal. Argentina then began the extradition process, which just recently came to a close.
The South American country was looking for him because documents showed him as the president of two companies that Muñoz created. Both allegedly only existed to launder money.
The group allegedly diverted funds from the Argentine treasury and used it to buy properties in the US and elsewhere. They sold some of those properties to buy others in the Turks and Caicos, where Esparza’s name appeared.
The order for Esparza’s arrest first appeared in 2019. Esparza is allegedly the president of several companies that Muñoz’s money laundering network used to buy four plots of land in the Turks and Caicos. In total, the properties were worth around $30 million at the time, according to the media.
A member of the underground organization, who police identified as Carlos Gellert, told authorities after his arrest that he convinced Esparza to sign the papers to purchase the property. Gellert is the cousin of Carolina Pochetti, Muñoz’s former partner.
Close, But Not That Close
Esparza acknowledged his friendship with Gellert and his wife, Perla Aydeé Puente Resendez, who is also allegedly part of the organization. However, he denied knowing Muñoz and Pochetti, and the rest of those involved in the money laundering hierarchy.
He stated that he signed the documentation for the Turks and Caicos companies without knowing what he was signing. He says he believed they were related to a food truck company owned by Gellert that Esparza managed.
In addition, Esparza stated that he never benefited financially from signing the documents, and that he did so because of the trust he had in Gellert. He stated that Gellert had always helped him, even when he started his career as a sports betting consultant.
Judicial sources claim the signing of the papers was in exchange for Gellert paying off a gambling debt for Esparza. He denies the assertion.
Where It Began
After the initial investigation began years ago, authorities in Argentina subpoenaed 30 people linked to Muñoz. He allegedly acquired assets for about $70 million through his pilfering of funds. Muñoz reportedly used some of the funds as hush money to continue carrying out the activity.
That much money had to be moved discreetly, which is where his network came in. They allegedly helped him stash the funds in exchange for a piece of the action.
Muñoz, who died in 2016, allegedly channeled part of the money he earned from corruption, especially from illegal payments by businessmen. Oscar Centeno, a driver for Kirchner’s Minister of Planning between 2004 and 2015, kept detailed notebooks on his boss’s movements, and later became key to unraveling the illegal activity.
Pochetti and Victor Manzanares, a former accountant for Kirchner, testified as collaborators before prosecutors in 2019. The group allegedly used vaults, bags of cash, frontmen, financiers, and dozens of offshore firms and bank accounts to erase the money trail. They didn’t do a perfect job, though, as there were still crumbs to follow.