The former Navy intelligence chief Esteban Zembo confirmed Tuesday that an intelligence official from his team was on board the ARA San Juan submarine when it disappeared with 44 crew on board on November 15, 2017 in the Atlantic Ocean.
Zembo was the head of Navy Intelligence until April. He appeared before a Senate hearing on Tuesday to offer information about the submarine’s final journey, which had petty officer Enrique Castillo from the intelligence branch of the Navy on board at the time.
“We are responsible for training our people in all operational issues about the flotilla of naval aviation and naval infantry. As such, each vessel that is sent out on patrol, controlling the seas, takes with it a person from intelligence, be it a ship or submarine”, Zembo told senators.
He said officer Castillo was carrying “base information, which is regularly updated, from all sources” of possible intelligence information.
“What was on his computer were photos which we had until that time of the condition of each vessel in the area patrolling the sea”, Zembo, a former Malvinas/Falklands War veteran, told the Senate.
Castillo was charged with “training and advising about [intelligence] information and about what the crew was required to verify on its patrols”, he added.
Asked by lawmaker Guillermo Montenegro about whether the ARA San Juan was tasked with monitoring British vessels near the Malvinas Islands, the former Navy spy boss said: “A secondary objective is the opportunity objective. I did not receive, neither from political powers nor Navy authorities, any orders for intelligence operations [of this nature]”. “It was only training”, he said.
“We offered a man to act in the role of observer. It is not about [whether he was] an intelligence agent, rather he was a Navy corporal with the specific task of advising Command”, Zembo concluded.