Prosecutors have started the extradition process against Marcelo Balcedo, the SOEME union leader arrested in Uruguay on money-laundering charges.
La Nación has reported that Prosecutors Ana Miriam Russo, Gabriel Pérez Barberá and Laura Roteta have petitioned Federal Judge Ernesto Kreplak to immediately request the extradition of Balcedo and his wife Paola Fiege. Pérez Barberá and Roteta are in charge of the PROCELAC, the specialized unit tasked with investigating cases of money-laundering and economic crimes.
Balcedo and his wife were arrested on January 4 at his luxury home in Uruguay. At the time of his arrest investigators seized US $500,000 in cash as well as a Glock 9mm, a revolver, and a replica of a AR 15 assault rifle. Among the cars seized by the authorities, there was a Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz with Uruguayan license plates, as well as a Porsche and a Chevrolet Camaro. Only the Porsche was registered in Fliege’s name, whereas the other cars, cash and house had not been declared to the AFIP tax bureau. Balcedo remains in custody in Montevideo.
In subsequent searches last week, the Uruguayan police and Interpol found more than US$ 6 million cash in safety deposit boxes belonging to Balcedo in banks in Montevideo and Punta del Este. The Uruguayan press quoted an Uruguayan prosecutor saying that the raids had turned up the single-biggest seizure of cash in Uruguayan history.
Should Kreplak accept the extradition requests, the file will be forwarded on to the Foreign Ministry for review before it is sent over to the Uruguay Foreign Ministry so it can then be sent to the courts. The extradition will be handled under the terms of an existing extradition treaty and so far police cooperation has taken place because of arrangements between Uruguay and Argentina.
Mauricio Yebra, a high-ranking SOEME official, has also been remanded into custody and slapped with an indictment by Kreplak. Yebra is considered an accomplice of Balcedo and was involved in the withdrawal of what is believed to be at least 80 million pesos from SOEME bank accounts for purposes that prosecutors believe were unrelated to the union’s activities.
The prosecutors have also expressed alarm that cars registered in Yebra’s name have been found under the control of the Los Monos drug trafficking gang.