Set against a backdrop of imminent sweeping reform, a number of former officials from the Mauricio Macri administration are finding themselves in the judicial spotlight.
With President Alberto Fernández vowing a complete overhaul – and Peronist politicians said to be at odds over what shape it will take – a number of Macri administration officials are feeling the heat.
Fernández said last week that he wanted to “reorder federal justice,” saying he wanted to end the “construction of false cases [and] arbitrary detentions.” He said the court system would be re-ordered with the “creation of a new federal criminal jurisdiction.” No longer would “crimes against public administration” by public officials be in the hands of a few judges,” he added, saying he wanted as many as 50 to oversee such cases.
On Friday, former vice-president Gabriela Michetti was named among three individuals who have been accused of defrauding public administration in a criminal writ related to unfinished construction works at the Senate.
Michetti, 54, a PRO party official who served as VP from 2015 to 2019 under former president Mauricio Macri, was named in the writ alongside former administrative secretary to the Senate, Helio Rebot, and German De Vincenzo, the president of construction firm DINALE SA.
“Michetti gave more than 180 million [pesos] to a company that did not finish the works that were scheduled in a questionable tender,” reads the writ, which was filed with the authorities by the government’s Director of Legal Affairs of the Senate, Graciana Peñafort.
The document, which the Noticias Argentinas news agency h a d a c c e s s to, a c c u s e s Michetti,among other irregularities, of defrauding the public administration over “works” at the Senate that remained unfinished and of carrying out negotiations incompatible with public office. It alleges that advances on payment were granted “outside the regulations, without any motivation.”
The allegation is a consequence of an audit of expenses incurred by Michetti during her time as vice-president of the nation. Her successor in the post, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had ordered a review of expenses, saying she had discovered unpaid bills and unfinished works at the Senate.
Wasting no time as Fernández’s new Treasury prosecutor, Carlos Zannini – former vice presidential candidate on the Kirchnerite ticket that was defeated in 2015 – filed a complaint alongside the Commercial Appeals Court’s chief prosecutor, Gabriela Boquin. This week, commercial Judge Marta Cirulli ordered that Correo Argentino be placed under trusteeship.
Correo Argentino was controlled by SOCMA, otherwise known as Sociedad Macri, once of the investment firms controlled by the family of the former president.
Back in 2001, Correo Argentino owed the state some US$300 million (then 300 million pesos). SOCMA had acquired the concession during the privatisations of the 1990s under Carlos Menem, and failed to pay its annual fee. According to the prosecutor’s office, the debt had risen to 4.7 billion pesos by 2016, when the firm offered to pay with a 98.82 percent discount, which was originally approved by the Macri administration and was later forced to backtrack due to public outcry.
Last Sunday, Perfil reported that the former president is concerned about the case and the possible damage it could cause to the extended members of his family.
Another magnet for criticism for Kirchnerites during their time in the opposition was Laura Alonso, the former head of the Anti-Corruption Office.
Federal Judge Luis Rodriguez has been ordered by the City Appeals Court to dig further into whether Alonso and former Energy minister Juan José Aranguren favoured the former’s previous employer, oil company Shell.
Alonso is accused of covering up Aranguren’s “incompatible negotiations,” yet she was more broadly criticised for supposed anti-Kirchnerite bias during her tenure. This week, a request was made to investigate the duo’s telephone conversations.
The changing political winds that originated in the August victory of the ‘Fernández-Fernández’ ticket in the PASO primaries appears to have been felt strongly in Comodoro Py federal courthouse.
While the Macri years were marked by an intense judicial agenda on corruption accusations against the Kirchnerites, it seems as if the pressure is now being focused on the Macri administration.
In tandem, President Fernández has promised to pass a judicial reform to metaphorically
drain the swamp that is the federal justice system, with some
questioning whether this will
truly aim at solving the problem,
or if it’s a ploy to help Vice-President Cristina Fernández de
Kirchner, her family, and her
former associates shake off corruption accusations.