How do you buy a 450 square meter house in lush San Isidro without having the funds to do so?
Magic? Alchemy? The Secret? Or just plain old illicit enrichment?
Another day, another public official charged with corruption. This time it’s former army chief, César Milani (not to be confused with the dog whisperer Cesar Millan), who’s been formally charged with illicit enrichment by federal judge Daniel Rafecas.
It seems that Milani hasn’t been able to explain how he managed to acquire a 1.5 million peso house during his time (2010 which helps explain the price tag to anyone looking at real estate in 2016) as Army Chief, given his financial resources, making him liable for illicit enrichment, which penalises the unexplained increase in wealth of a public official while in office.
He had claimed that his friend and comrade, Eduardo Enrique Barreiro – who is currently being investigated for the slightly graver offense of crimes against humanity – had given him a loan. However, analysis of his financial records by accounting experts has found serious inconsistencies in his declarations.
“Neither the patrimony nor the consumption of Sr. Milani César appears justified, that is, the minimum amounts he would have needed to attend to his personal needs and those of his family. The equation income against investments and purchases, in accordance with the submitted documentation, is inconsistent. In particular, he cannot justify the purchase of a property in the street O’Higgins 3636 in San Isidro”, concluded court experts.
Milani, already a controversial figure for his alleged involvement in crimes during the military dictatorship, had claimed that Barreiro loaned him $200,000 USD, which he delivered to him Santa-Claus style in a bag on Christmas day of 2009. Rafecas submitted his finances to three accounting experts to test these declarations; two of the three concluded there were inconsistencies.
The experts referred to a number of facts that cast doubt on the legality of the transfer. Firstly, they found that it appears impossible that Barreiro, who, at that time, earned $9,000USD a month, would have been able to gather the funds together to make a loan to his friend. There’s also the small problem of the repayment of the loan – Milani claimed he transferred his Belgrano apartment to Barreiro as repayment, but the experts found that the apartment was transferred to Barreiro six months after Milani purchased the house in San Isidro. Furthermore, Barreiro never occupied the apartment. And the sale deed says that $200,000 cash was handed over from Milani to Barreiro, though both denied this happened.
The money in the bag scenario was also found to be highly suspicious by the experts. Milani claimed that Barreiro handed over the money during a toast at his office on Christmas day in 2009, in the presence of a number of comrades. However, nobody other than Milani and Barreiro – and it’s unclear whether there were 10 or 30 people in the room – remember the bag being handed over, though they do recall a Milani toasting to friendship and the economic help of a friend.
All this led Rafecas to conclude that it was “impossible” to corroborate what Milani claimed, and that therefore “the significant increase in his wealth was unjustifiable.”
The case against Milani was initiated in 2013 and could see him behind bars for a maximum of 6 years. Argentina was one of the first countries in the world to introduce illicit enrichment legislation, a slightly unusual (and somewhat controversial) crime, as it shifts the burden of proof to the defendant, requiring them to prove their innocence (as opposed to the state having to prove their guilt, considered fundamental in criminal law.) However, fighting public corruption – “the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development”, according to the World Bank – is often difficult, as perpetrators frequently leave no paper trail.