Dredging company Jan De Nul, one of Belgium’s most internationally successful companies, had denied accusations it took part in an Argentinian bribery scandal, currently being investigated by the country’s authorities. The case concerns Hidrovia, a 50-50 joint venture between Jan De Nul and local company Emepa. Hidrovia was awarded a contract in 1996 for the dredging of the Parana river and the right to levy a toll on shipping.
Emepa’s name arose in connection with a series of articles in recent weeks in the Argentine press, linking the names of politicians and prominent companies. The CEO of Emepa, Gabriel Romero, was accused of paying a bribe to former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for the extension of the Hidrovia contract.
Jan De Nul washed its hands of the accusations, claiming it was a matter for its partner alone. Police have searched Emepa’s offices in Buenos Aires and interview Romero and another director, a spokesperson said. “But there have been no detentions or summonses regarding the representatives of Jan De Nul”.
The company issued a press release: “We regret that one of our partners is under discussion in this way. We will offer our full cooperation should there be any questions from the Argentinian authorities.”
Romero is accused of paying a bribe of $600,000 in 2010 for the extension of the lucrative Parana river contract. The river carries about one-fifth of Argentina’s international goods transport, with Hidrovia charging a toll for each passage.