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Argentina's Macri demands end to 'mafia' business behavior

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Buenos Aires (AFP)

Argentina president Mauricio Macri called for an "end to mafia behavior" during a meeting with powerful business leaders on Thursday, amongst whom included several whose companies are implicated in the country's high-profile, multimillion-dollar "notebook" corruption scandal.

"I'm not going to mortgage my government, nor the future of Argentines to defend anyone who operates outside of the law," said Macri during a meeting of the Argentine Business Association (AEA) in Buenos Aires, in a clear dig at predecessor Cristina Kirchner.

"If any of you faces an improper request, I'm a president you can turn to."

The "notebook" corruption scandal has implicated not just titans of the Argentine business world but also politicians from the governments of the late Nestor and his wife Cristina Kirchner, who between them served for three terms from 2003 to 2015 before the right-wing Macri came to power.

Last week, Amado Boudou, a former vice-president under Cristina Kirchner, was sentenced to almost six years in prison after he was found guilty of "passive bribery" and conduct "incompatible" with his duties as a public servant.

Business leaders present at Thursday's meeting included Paolo Rocca, chief executive of Techint, an Italo-Argentine conglomerate mentioned in the notebook scandal, and Jose Cartellone, whose construction company is also mentioned in the case.

Around 20 high-profile businessmen and former government officials have been arrested so far in the notebook case, which involved under-the-table payments during the Kirchner governments.

Cristina Kirchner herself appeared before a judge on Monday to face questions, but dismissed the procedure as "judicial persecution" aimed at ruling her out of next year's elections.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of $160 million in bribes was handed over during a 10-year period from 2005-15.

The investigation revolves around the meticulous notes taken down by former government chauffer Oscar Centeno, in which he describes delivering payments from business leaders in exchange for public works contracts.

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