A commercial judge Marta Cirulli has ordered that the Correo Argentino post office be placed under trusteeship and that its administrators be removed from their posts.
The magistrate’s decision followed a writ filed by Attorney General Carlos Zannini and the Commercial Appeals Court’s chief prosecutor Gabriela Boquin. That move, which comes as the firm is locked in a “cram-down” (pre-bankruptcy proceedings) illustrates the new approach to the controversy surrounding the firm that has taken hold since the Alberto Fernández administration took office.
Boquin had requested that the administrators in charge of the company – who had been appointed by the Socma company, owned by the family of former president Mauricio Macri –
be removed from their posts and a new leadership be installed, accusing its previous owners, the SOCMA (Sociedad Macri) group of asset-stripping.
The prosecutor alleged that the asset-stripping took place during SOCMA’s time in charge of the firm (1997-2003).
The new imposed trustee will have full powers to administer and oversee Correo Argentino, including control of its accounts. Despite the intervention, Socma – which remains the property of the Macri family, with shares shared between late tycoon Franco Macri’s five children – will retain the power to renegotiate its debt with the State, judicial sources told local outlets.
Zannini, in a letter submitted to the court in mid-February, alleged that the State has “a specific interest” in trustees overseeing Correo Argentino, saying there had been “a series of irregularities” at the post office.
In June 2016, the Macri administration accepted an offer to end a two-year row between the company and the State over debts owed by the firm. It involved a giant haircut of Correo Argentino's debt, Perfil reported at the time, a move that Boquin later described as "abusive" and "detrimental to public administration."
When the conflict between the two parties began, back in 2001, Correo Argentino's debt with the State was for some US$300 million (then 300 million pesos), according to previous reporting. However, by 2017, the Public Prosecutor's Office established that, with interest, that debt had risen to four billion pesos.
Last Sunday, Perfil journalist Ezequiel Spillman reported that the former president is concerned about the case and the possible damage it could cause to the extended members of his family.
Macri-aligned opposition politicians criticised the news. In a joint statement, ex-justice minister Germán Garavano, senator and former vice-presidential candidate Miguel Ángel Pichetto and national lawmaker Pablo Tonelli said that "since 2003, Kirchnerismo has been using the concession of Correo Aregentino to mount an operation of political persecution against Mauricio Macri and his family."
The trio also criticised Zanini’s intervention and called for an end to “attacks” and “revenge.”
On Thursday, Zannini said that the State "must recover" the money lost from the "huge debt" produced by Correo Argentino.
"What we are trying to recover there are state funds, our participation does not have any other implication," he said, adding that the case should be "resolved promptly."