Since the judicial recess ended on February 1st, the comings and goings in the central federal tribunal are appearing more in the news. This year is set to be very busy on the judicial front: from the Hotesur Case against the former Kirchner administration to the charges pressed against Boudou, this will get interesting fast.
Here we take a look at the cases set to take center stage in 2016 so that next time you see strange names such as “Ciccone” or “Schoklender” in the news, you’ll know what is being talked about.
First, you’ll notice the words “Comodoro Py” crop up a lot: this refers to the central federal tribunal, the National Federal Cassation Court. The court is located at Avenue Comodoro Py 2002 (hence the name) in the neighborhood of Retiro, where crimes committed by public officials are processed. It’s the highest court bar the Supreme Court, where trials consist of oral presentations from defendants and prosecutors before a final sentence is handed out by a federal judge. If the sentence is appealed, it is submitted to a group of three judges for review.
The judges working at Comodoro Py are names that will also be appearing in the news from now on, including those pictured above: Sebastián Casanello, Norberto Oyarbide, María Servini de Cubría and Ariel Lijo.
The Cases At Comodoro Py
- Defendant: former Vice President Amado Boudou
- Judge: Norberto Oyarbide
- The Case: Dádivas is the Spanish word for “handout,” and what’s being investigated here is two helicopter flights that Boudou took in 2011 for which he allegedly did not pay. Both flights were on the same day: the first, to get to the coastal town of Necochea from Buenos Aires City and the second, a six-minute flight within the town with former Necochea Mayor Horacio Tellechea.
- Defendant: former Vice President Amado Boudou (Economy Minister at the time)
- Judge: Ariel Lijo
- The Case: this time, Boudou is being charged with corruption over his role in the appropriation of the Ciccone Calcográfica printing company. The company had been declared bankrupt but magically came back to life after Boudou told the national tax collection agency (AFIP) to give it a break. Boudou allegedly planned to get 70 percent of the company’s stock from the owner, Nicolás Ciccone, in exchange for lifting its bankruptcy and giving it government contracts.
The Hotesur Case
- Defendant: former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the Kirchner family.
- Judges: two judges for this case have just been changed, and they are now Gustavo Hornos and Mariano Borinsky. They have to decide, along with Judge Ana María Figueroa, whether the case will be tried under the federal judge Daniel Rafecas or in the courts of Río Gallegos in Santa Cruz Province.
- The Case: Hotesur is a company that managed the hotels in Santa Cruz that belong to the Kirchner family. Initially flagged for not paying taxes, later investigations carried out by Judge Claudio Bonadio refocused the case around an alleged money laundering schemee by businessman Lázaro Baez, who rented two rooms in one of the hotels for two years for AR$15 million without ever actually occupying them. It’s usually the minibar that gets people.
Who is Lázaro Baez? He is a businessman who owns a construction company called Austral Construcciones, which received a lot of contracts during former President Néstor Kirchner’s presidency. He is also central in the Hotesur and “the Kirchnerite money trail” cases for allegedly enabling money laundering with public infrastructure funds by creating tax havens.
“The [Kirchnerite] Money Trail” Case
- Defendant: Lázaro Baez, Martín Baez, Leandro Baez, Leonardo Fariña and Daniel Perez Gadín.
- Judge: Sebastián Casanello
- The case is popularly called “the ‘K’ Money Trail,” based on a 2013 exposé on Baez’s prolific money laundering practices by journalist and TV personality Jorge Lanata. However, it is formally known as the Lázaro Baez Case. As you would expect, Lázaro Baez is the main defendant but his sons, Martín and Leandro, and accountants Leonardo Fariña and Daniel Perez Gadín are also involved.
Schoklender Scandal (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Foundation)
- Defendants: Sergio and Pablo Schoklender
- Judge: Marcelo Martínez De Giorgi
- The Case: The investigation looks into charges pressed against Sergio Schoklender concerning embezzlement and mismanagement of public funds earmarked for a social housing project called “Shared Dreams” which was launched by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Association (this is the group led by Hebe de Bonafini and is separate from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Founding Line. The two groups split in 1986). Schoklender was acting as financial manager of the association at the time and was very close to Bonafini. Needless to say, they are no longer close, but the whole mess has tarnished Bonafini’s reputation.
Abuse Of Authority: Moreno And Vanoli
- Defendant: former Secretary of Domestic Trade Guillermo Moreno and former head of the Central Bank Alejandro Vanoli
- Judge: Claudio Bonadio
- The Case: last Friday, judge Bonadio leveled charges against Moreno and Vanoli for allegedly abusing their authority by “harassing” various companies from media conglomerate Clarín Group. The ruling states that this was done by “dictating various resolutions” that affected companies “such as Papel Prensa Papel Prensa and Arte Gráfico Editorial Argentino S.A.” Let’s just say that the former administration had a less-than-friendly relationship with the media empire, especially concerning its compliance with the Media Law.
- Moreno is also being investigated for allegedly using public funds to create anti-Clarín propaganda. There were even balloons used at various political rallies and events with the words Clarín miente (“Clarín lies”). No, I’m not kidding.
- Defendants: Fernando Niembro and Culture Minister Hernán Lombardi
- Judge: Sebastián Casanello and Ariel Lijo, respectively
- The Case: both have been accused of money laundering by the Prosecutor’s Office for the Prevention of Economic Crime and Money Laundering (PROCELAC). Niembro was running for a seat in Congress on a Republican Proposal (PRO) ticket last year, but backed down once investigations brought shady contracts with the City Government to light. Click here for an explainer by The Bubble on Niembro’s money laundering.
- The current Culture Minister, Hernán Lombardi, is facing similar charges for allegedly misappropriating funds in favor of PRO organizations between 2010 and 2013.
You may have noticed that the defendants are almost exclusively former Kirchnerite public officials who in fact no longer hold any positions of power, meaning that they no longer enjoy any kind of immunity. As President Mauricio Macri has purportedly placed ending the polarization in Argentine politics as a prime objective, let’s hope that these trials don’t become a witch hunt or subjected to a media circus, so the Court can act accordingly.