Lomas de Zamora federal judge Juan Pablo Augé committed the AFI intelligence helm under the 2015-2019 Mauricio Macri presidency to trial n Wednesday, on charges of illegal espionage against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and several of her followers, abuse of authority and falsification of public documents.
As well as being indicted, Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani have also been forbidden from leaving the country, with their passports retained by justice, while a lien of two million pesos each slapped on their assets.
Another high-level defendant in the case is the director of presidential documentation under Macri, Susana Martinengo, alongside several AFI ex-spies headed by Alan Ruiz (formerly the chief of Special Operations). The information illegally obtained is thus assumed to have gone all the way to the Casa Rosada.
The two former AFI chiefs deny the allegations, saying there was no illegal espionage of Fernández de Kirchner, the former president who was then a Senator for Buenos Aires Province, nor any surveillance that went beyond the need to protect her within the framework of the G20 Leaders Summit at the end of 2018.
The defendants also argue double jeopardy on the grounds that they had already been acquitted over similar charges in that year, though admitting the possibility that lone wolves (or “stray sheep” in their words) among intelligence agents may have exceeded their orders.
Augé rejected the due diligence argument, saying that the surveillance extended beyond the ex-president to the Kirchnerite think tank Instituto Patria.
The judge said: “AFI actions were unprofessional as well as illegal as they not only compromised the safety of the ex-president but also the agents guarding her since that knowledge is vital for their actions.”
According to the file, the targets of espionage included not only opposition politicians but some of Macri’s own leading allies such as City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, as well as journalists and trade unionists.
The indictment of the former AFI helm is preceded by counter-intelligence ex-chief Martín Coste being sent to trial on the same charges after being denounced by current AFI trustee Cristina Caamaño.
Macri was tried for illegal espionage while mayor of Buenos Aires (2007-2015) but was acquitted in the first month of his presidency in late 2015.