US authorities are investigating technology giant Hewlett Packard for alleged acts of corruption committed in Argentina according to reports from Spanish newspapers LA NACION, based on testimonies and official documents it consulted in recent weeks.
The investigation for alleged bribery, money laundering and extortion is reportedly targeting Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration officials from various public agencies such as the Ministry of the Interior and Transportation, the Secretary of Commerce and the General Directorate of Customs, as well as a handful of local HP executives, at least two Argentine distributors and another Uruguayan firm.
Initiated in August 2018, the investigation is under the purview of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the alleged violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
HP is henceforth joining a long list of multinationals investigated in the United States for their operations in Argentina. At least a dozen of them ended up admitting that they paid bribes in the country during the last twenty years; including IBM, Siemens, LAN, Odebrecht and, most recently, Stericycle.
In the case of Hewlett Packard, however, we may very well be talking about recidivism. In 2014, HP reached an agreement with the DOJ and the SEC whereby it agreed to pay at least US$108 million and submit to a special monitoring program for its irregularities and crimes in Russia, Poland and Mexico. The scandal involved employees at HP’s subsidiaries in those three countries, who were charged with bribing government officials to win and retain lucrative public contracts.
Corruption at the time concerned contracts worth $40m to install IT equipment at the national police headquarters in Poland, €35m of work for government prosecutors in Russia, and a deal to supply Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company. In Poland, prosecutors charged a former HP executive, named in accordance with local law only as Tomasz Z, with handing over cash, computers and audio and video equipment worth more than $600,000 to the head of IT at the country’s police headquarters.
Now, the investigators reportedly seek to determine how HP’s local executives acted since the Fernández de Kirchner government established the “advance sworn declarations of imports” (DJAI), in February 2012, and the profits that Hewlett Packard has made since then –by itself or through its distributors– with the Government.
LA NACION consulted the Argentine subsidiary of the company about the investigation. Four days later came the response from the parent company HP Inc.: “As this matter is related to litigious issues, we do not comment on it,” was their response.
The investigation takes place in multiple cities in the United States, but US Authorities reportedly requested the collaboration of the Argentine authorities to meet with local executives of Hewlett Packard and other Argentinian officials.
A summons was reportedly issued in January 20 and 21 which included the former commercial director of Nación Seguros Sebastián Pérez Escobar ; the former manager of Systems and Technologies of Nación Servicios Lautaro Emilio González ; and the expert in corporate affairs Horacio Colimodio . Also, four HP executives: the managing partner until his departure in 2016, Gonzalo Giazitzian ; former sales manager Javier Alberto Mazzeo ; and the also managers Sergio Venier and Carlos Huergo Cornejo , who later went on to work at a company named Dinatech .
Dinatech, meanwhile, is also reportedly under scrutiny, according to LA NACION . Dinatech is owned by businessman Eduardo Wassi , who has been nicknamed “Randazzito” for years because of his alleged affinity with the then Minister of the Interior and Transport, Florencio Randazzo .
A commercial company identified as Diverol SA operates there, presenting itself as a company dedicated to the importation and distribution of computer science that offers the “HP Uruguay guarantee”.