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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
How arms scandal emerged
By Americas Regional Editor Robert Plummer
The scandal over illegal arms sales by Argentina that prompted the arrest of ex-President Menem has been brewing for a decade, but the details were slow to emerge at first.
Some 5,000 rifles and 75 tonnes of ammunition left Argentina in February of that year on their way to Venezuela, but the weapons were subsequently diverted to Ecuador.
However, the scandal took on larger proportions when it became clear that this was not the only unlawful arms transaction linked to Carlos Menem's government.
Four years earlier, in 1991, Argentina had sent 6,500 tonnes of weapons and munitions to Panama, a country that has not had an army since the United States' invasion of 1989 that ousted General Noriega.
Those arms found their way to Croatia, which was then subject to a United Nations arms embargo because of its involvement in the conflict that accompanied the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
At the time, Argentina had contributed 800 soldiers to the UN peacekeeping force in the region.
Various ministers and senior military personnel were implicated in the scandal, along with the head of the state arms company and some of his aides.
However, the scale of the charges against them has increased as the extent of the allegations against the Menem government has widened.
At first, ministers were blamed for failing in their duty as public officials, by not preventing the diversion of the arms shipments.
Now, Mr Menem himself and three of his closest allies stand accused of actually leading a conspiracy to break international embargoes by selling arms to states involved in conflicts.
Mr Menem's nephew has described the allegations against Mr Menem as political persecution - but a conviction would dash Mr Menem's hopes of running for the Argentine presidency again in 2003 and tarnish his reputation for ever.