Argentina Submarine
The Argentine military submarine ARA San Juan and crew are seen in the port of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Jun. 2, 2014. The submarine has been missing since Nov. 15. Reuters

An Argentine military submarine that vanished in November may have been the subject of corruption, according to new reports. As part of an investigation into the disappearance of the ARA San Juan, Argentine authorities raided the nation’s naval headquarters as well as the German industrial contractor Ferrostaal, the Maritime Executive reported.

The searches of Ferrostaal and naval headquarters were ordered to be completed by a judge, Deutsche Wells reported.

Shortly before the submarine vanished, it’s commander reported a battery malfunction on the vessel. New reports revealed Ferrostaal and battery maker EnerSys-Hawker may have paid bribes for a $6 million contract they received to replace 964 battery cells on the ARA San Juan in 2011, according to German public radio outlet BR. Some have suggested the components of the batteries may have been subpar.

“There is a suspicion that the batteries that have been replaced were partly or not of the quality that they should have [been],” Cornelia Schmidt-Liermann, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Argentine Parliament, told BR. “We also do not know where they came from, Germany or any other country, so we want to know what technicians were there and those who signed.”

The battery cells were replaced instead of replacing the batteries themselves with new ones in an effort to save costs, according to Germany’s DPA news agency.

Ferrostaal denied allegations of bribery while speaking to BR, while EnerSys-Hawker had not yet weighed in. Argentine lawmaker Elisa Carrio, meanwhile, filed a legal complaint against two former defense ministers, citing allegations of “irregularities in the repair contract had favored the German companies,” DW reported.

The ARA San Juan went missing Nov. 15. Despite a multinational search of hundreds of thousands of nautical miles, no trace of the vessel or its 44 crew members had yet been found. Argentine authorities said publicly they believed no one was left alive on board the submarine and shifted the rescue mission to a search and recovery mission.

In addition to suspicions of corruption leveled by lawmakers, family members of those on board leveled allegations of unsafe conditions against the navy, including one who said the military “sent a piece of crap to sail.” The navy, for its part, denied those accusations and said the submarine underwent routine inspection before being sent out to sea.

Multiple high-level officials have been fired in the wake of the ARA San Juan’s disappearance, including Argentine naval chief Admiral Marcelo Srur. Srur was the fifth senior officer to be terminated and the highest-ranking official to be removed from his position.

Argentine Sub
This photo released by Noticias Argentinas shows relatives of the 44 missing Argentine submarine crew members demonstrating outside of the country's Navy base in Mar del Plata, on the Atlantic coast south of Buenos Aires, Dec. 15, 2017. Getty Images