Argentina ex-minister caught hiding cash in monastery

(iStock)
(iStock)

Buenos Aires - Argentine police arrested a former government minister when they caught him trying to hide millions of dollars in cash and jewels at a monastery, officials have said.

Jose Lopez, 55, served as deputy minister for public works for 12 years under the country's two last presidents and was already facing corruption charges.

He was caught throwing suitcases over a wall into the garden of an old monastery now inhabited by nuns, Buenos Aires district security minister Cristian Ritondo told reporters on Tuesday.

One case contained jewellery, euros, yen, dollars and Qatari currency worth more than $8m in total.

Police also found a rifle in his vehicle.

Ritondo said a 94-year-old nun at the monastery told officers that Lopez wanted to hide the money there so the police would not take it.

Lopez served as minister under leftist former president Cristina Kirchner and her predecessor and late husband Nestor.

He is currently a deputy in the South American regional assembly Parlasur.

"It is like a scene from a film. He has some explaining to do," said Marcos Pena, chief of staff to Argentina's President Mauricio Macri.

"This shows that there were at the very least enormous problems of transparency and discretional spending, and at the worst, serious problems of corruption" under the Kirchners, Pena said.

Macri launched a fight against corruption when he took office in December.

The president was named in the Panama Papers scandal in which media leaked details of accounts in offshore tax havens. He has denied any wrongdoing.

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