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Argentina – Lawmakers allege corruption over Ansenuza Casino

By - 12 September 2016

Three legislators from the province of Córdoba, Aurelio García Elorrio, Juan Pablo Quinteros and Liliana Montero, have denounced a number of irregularities centring on the construction of the Ansenuza Hotel Casino and Spa.

The legislators have provided what they argue is further evidence to prosecutor Gustavo Dalma and drawn attention to architectural firm Federico Weskamp and Arguello (FWAP) the company responsible for the management of the building of the hotel and casino.

According to the presentation put forward to the prosecutor’s office after analysing the service orders signed by the firm the legislators concluded that the total sum of orders reached $276,275.841 pesos. They argue that this sum is three times higher than that in the contract signed by the Lottery of Cordoba and FWAP. In what they say could amount to a “serious” infringement of local laws documents may, they say, have been doctored.

The Court of Ethics for the Provincial College of Architects has initiated an official investigation into the matter and a member of the body has appeared before the prosecutor. Inspectors from the Argentine tax office La Administración de Ingresos Públicos (AFIP) have also called for documents so that they too may begin to look into the matter.

The legislators have also argued that the contract between the lottery and the studio was dated and stamped on 23 November 2015, once the Ansenuza Hotel Casino & Spa had already been opened.
The initial findings of the investigation into alleged wrongdoing will be released in the middle of September as the investigation looks first into whether proper accounting and administrative practices were followed. If they were not then an investigation into whether work was paid above market value will be carried out. The prosecutor’s office could also look into alleged abuses of authority and the defrauding of the state during the construction of the four-star resort.

The casino has been the focal point of significant controversy already this year. In April it was revealed that The Lottery of Córdoba province had decided to terminate its contract with Pedraza Viajes the concessionaire of the Ansenuza Hotel Casino and Spa over growing concerns over still unfinished work and costs.
Opposition members in the state legislature called for precise details over costs as well as details over how the contract was initially awarded with the previous administration. The situation had become untenable due to the fact that said that Pedraza Viajes, had demanded that the lottery guarantee hotel occupancy and income amounting to a total of $650,000 pesos per month.

A lottery spokesman explained that: “The current concessionaire offered to make investments to complete the second stage of the hotel (30 rooms) for the amount of $42.35m, an amount which the Lottery would reimburse within 12 months from the completion of the work. Later and arguing that there had been changes in the costs of its construction, the licensee requested an increase, which would bring the work to a value of $59.29m. In this situation the Córdoba Lottery requested that the Department of Architecture of the Government of Córdoba put an evaluation on the work to be performed, and came to a final value of $43.34m.”

The Ansenuza Hotel Casino and Spa in Miramar opened last November. The world-class venture has a modern casino, spa, golf course with nine holes, and overlooks the Mar Chiquita lagoon.

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