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Banking information handed to Argentina

The Swiss government has handed banking documents to Argentina in a corruption probe linked to former President Carlos Menem and French defense company Thales.

The documents were sent to Argentina last week, justice ministry spokesman Folco Galli said on Monday.

The transfer was made possible after the Swiss Criminal Court rejected a series of appeals by unidentified companies and account holders who allegedly were part of a wide corruption scheme to divert money through Swiss bank accounts, offshore companies and foundations in Liechtenstein.

Argentine investigators believe Thales' subsidiary in Argentina paid $25 million (SFr25.5 million) in bribes to government officials to win a 1997 contract to run the country's radio frequency, cell phone and cable television spectrums.

The Argentine government subsequently scrapped the 15-year deal – worth $500 million – after a report by Argentina's auditor general found that irregularities in the contracting process had cost the state $300 million.

Menem, who was Argentina's president from 1989 to 1999, was charged with administrative fraud in March.

Federal Judge Norberto Oyarbide said Menem must have known of the irregularities, as his office oversaw the distribution of broadcast frequencies. But Menem said the corruption allegations were politically motivated.

The Swiss Criminal Court rulings, dated September 14 but just made public, said Argentina's request for legal aid was justified.

Galli said the information was handed over after the Swiss Supreme Court declined to hear a further appeal. and agencies


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