Argentine Officials Expand Probe into Casino Victoria Bribery Scandal

Argentine authorities are currently investigating Casino Victoria in Victoria, suspecting its involvement in a bribery scheme linked to former politician Martín Insaurralde. A search warrant executed at the casino led to the removal of records that investigators believe could unveil a significant bribery trail.

The case, known as “YachtGate,” involves 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 found invoices totaling ARS11.2 million (US$31,068), issued by the casino to a TV program Cirio produced in 2022. Both invoices, approximately ARS5.6 million (US$15,534) each, were marked as unpaid in the casino’s records.

The TV program, titled “The Women of the National Team,” was broadcast in December 2022, coinciding with Argentina’s participation in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 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 and 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, allegedly operating 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. In addition, discrepancies exist between the reported payments by the casino and what the TV program allegedly received, prompting investigators to seek clarification.

Authorities are also facing obstacles in accessing crucial evidence from Clérici’s cell phones, seized during search warrants at her residences in October. They are currently leaning toward the crime of illicit enrichment, with insufficient evidence to support submitting money laundering charges. However, they anticipate collaboration from the U.S., suspecting that significant assets belonging to Cirio and Insaurralde might be hiding there.

Evidence has also come to light about trips Insaurralde made during his time as a government official, with Casino Victoria reportedly paying for a part of the large number of flights he took. Investigators suspect that these trips could be part of the covert bribe and are continuing to piece together more information as the investigation unfolds.