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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 22:32 GMT
Travel ban for Argentine ex-leader

By Elliott Gotkine
BBC correspondent in Buenos Aires

A judge in Argentina has barred the country's former president, Fernando de la Rua, from leaving the country.

Argentina's ex-President Fernando de la Rua
President de la Rua resigned over Argentina's economic crisis
The move follows testimony from a former Senate clerk, who said he delivered bribes from Mr de la Rua's government to senators.

The bribes were intended to encourage them to approve a controversial labour reform law, which was passed in the year 2000.

Mr de la Rua denies the allegations and says they are a plot to discredit him by the current administration.

Including the former president, a total of 12 people have been prevented from leaving the country.

Among them are former senators, a one-time labour minister and a former head of the country's intelligence services.

They are all accused of being somehow involved in the alleged bribery of senators in exchange for their approval of an unpopular labour reform law.

Crisis of conscience

The allegations themselves are nothing new. They first surfaced at the time the law was approved in April 2000 - but the investigation went nowhere for lack of evidence.

Now prosecutors appear to have a witness and possibly even a handwritten list of the senators who would receive bribes.

At the centre of the scandal is former Senate clerk Mario Pontaquarto.

He says he was given five million pesos, at the time worth $5m, from Argentina's intelligence services, which he then personally delivered to senators from the country's two main political parties.

Mr Pontaquarto says a crisis of conscience prompted him to come forward.

He has been given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his co-operation, and his family have been sent abroad for their own protection.




SEE ALSO:
Argentine president resigns
21 Dec 01  |  Americas
Country profile: Argentina
15 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Argentina
11 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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