The case investigating the brutal murder of 41-year-old Fernando Pérez Algaba, the Argentine trader who showed up dismembered in the Buenos Aires Province city of Ingeniero Budge on July 23, 2023, is centred on reconstructing his last few hours. Investigators are seeking to answer a number of questions... who did he communicate with? Which places did he he visit? And who did he meet?
The financial aspect is the main line of investigation followed by Prosecutor Marcelo Domínguez, but not the only one. The amount of debt he had incurred and the regular threats he received reinforce the theory of a settling of scores related to money. The striking thing is the mechanics of the crime. Not that he was executed by two gunshots as shown by the forensic report, but why his remains were dismembered, bagged and thrown into a suitcase which, oddly enough, contained four IDs.
If the intention was to make it difficult to identify the body, it is not clear why they did not search the red suitcase properly. Actually, everything would seem to indicate that they had another objective: to send a message. To whom?
A dismembered body in a suitcase points to the mafia. In fact, the most recent background is related to executions by transnational drug dealing organisations or crimes by the so-called Chinese mafia.
The round of suspects for the trader’s murder has all kinds of characters: gangs, drug dealers, transnational organisations, businesspeople and even investors like the victim.
A series of recorded messages sent by Pérez Algaba point to Gustavo Iglesias and his son Nazareno, two characters linked to “La 12”, as the Boca hooligan gang is known.
Given the suspicion, both decided to set the record straight. They went to the office of prosecutor Domínguez with their lawyers, acknowledged the messages and the debt Pérez Algaba allegedly had with them, but they denied having anything to do with the murder.
“I’m not gonna kill you, it’ll be worse, I’ll tear out your eyes and chop off your hands so you can’t count money anymore”, said Iglesias in one of the messages sent to the victim.
Another name mentioned in various recorded messages is Nahuel Vargas, another alleged victim of Pérez Algaba. Last February, Vargas reported receiving threats in Ituzaingó.
The trader’s friends who testified agreed when they stated that Pérez Algaba “had debts with different creditors”. However, none of them could give a name or any piece of information to help investigators discover possible perpetrators.
According to the data provided by his closest circle, the businessman usually drove around in a Land Rover Range Rover Evoque 2012. The vehicle showed up yesterday. It was being held by an alleged partner of the victim and taken to the Department Investigation Office (DDI, by its Spanish acronym) of Lomas de Zamora. Why did it take him so long to deliver it?
From the circles of “Lechuga” (Lettuce), the victim’s nickname, they do not believe the mafia versions. “He always helped plenty of people and many partners screwed him”, as pointed out one of his contacts.
“I don’t know how to approach it, it’s strange if he was tricky like some say, for him to always go around the same area, frequent the same spots, show his movements on social networks, and everything like that. Now he was dividing up lots and building a neighbourhood in General Rodríguez”, he pointed out.
His brother Rodolfo testified in the same vein: “He went to get some money, and, in my opinion, he was followed and killed for money”, he said in a television interview. Like investigators, the man also focused on the dismemberment: “If he had just been shot, I could think it was a settling of scores, but what doesn’t add up is that he was cut up the way he was”, he mused.
Pérez Algaba had a public Instagram account with over 900,000 followers. He was very active on social networks and everyone could access his content, which is at the very least striking for someone who supposedly owed money and got constant death threats.
Debts and companies. The accounting records of the businessman, who lived in Barcelona and had recently returned to Argentina to close new deals, were in the red, as were two of the three companies he had in the country.
Pérez Algaba totals twelve bounced cheques to the tune of 929,200 pesos, although this debt has been incurred by one of his companies: Motors Lettuce.
This firm, established in January 2018, had as its main activity “retail sale by post, television and other media”, and he shared it with his brother Rodolfo.
Up to May 2020 the victim was also listed as the president of Cegepa SA, which sold cars, vans and SUVs. One year later, the company changed name and shareholders: it was then called Tonnelier SA.
According to Central Bank (BCRA) records, Cegepa has seven bounced cheques in the amount of 2,530,000 pesos. In addition, the murdered trader showed up as a partner in a company called Luxury Scissors, engaging in hairdressing, aesthetics and beauty, cosmetology and pedicure, among other things.
'The debtors are not the murderers'
The attorney of Gustavo and Nazareno Iglesias, two of Fernando Pérez Algaba’s debtors, also questioned the financial motive. “I’m convinced that this people he owed money to are not the ones who committed the crime”, assured Rodrigo González to Radio con Vos.
“Fernando was a super reliable guy, everybody trusted him. Then he started changing during the pandemic and started dealing with cryptocurrencies more, and to borrow money from a lot of people,” said González, and added: “He can’t return the money and strangely overnight leaves the country, goes to Europe, and he can’t be found anymore”.
Regarding the statement of their clients, the lawyer remembered that they talked about the content of recorded messages and provided the victim’s data. “They said everything they knew about him until they lost touch,” González explained.
“Fernando borrows money from him for the cryptocurrency business, then gives it back. Then he borrows some again, he pays two of three instalments of what he had promised plus interest, and then vanishes. In all he didn’t give back close to 30,000 dollars”, the lawyer pointed out.
One of the witnesses who testified this week was one of the victim’s best friends: Lucas Matilla.
He talked about his friendship with Fernando and said he has known him for over eleven years. According to court sources, Matilla confirmed that his friend bought and sold cryptocurrency and had not done well with that, although he clarified that at some point he was “able to recover”. According to Matilla, Pérez Algaba’s main activity was the purchase and sale of motorcycles and cars in the Ituzaingó area.
The witness has something else in common with the victim: both were reported in a case pending at Federal Court 2 in Morón.