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ARGENTINA | 19-05-2021 22:11

Judge issues arrest warrant for ex-Macri government official who fled to Uruguay

Judge issues international arrest warrant for Fabián 'Pepín' Rodríguez Simón, former Macri government official and alleged "judicial operator" accused of extortion, a fugitive from justice in Uruguay.

A federal judge has issued an international arrest warrant for Fabián 'Pepín' Rodríguez Simón, a former official in the 2015-2019 Mauricio Macri government and alleged "judicial operator," after he said he would claim asylum in Uruguay and not return to the country while he is being investigated by the courts.

Federal judge María Servini had summoned Rodríguez Simón to give testimony on June 17, as part of an investigation into allegations against him of "extortion and illicit association." The case is related to alleged government pressures on the Grupo Indalo business group. Executives from the media group were imprisoned during the Macri administration's time in office.

Servini declared Rodríguez Simón in absentia, given statements delivered through his lawyer to the press, saying he would seek asylum in Uruguay. The judge ordered the lifting of the accused's banking secrecy protections, as well as the freezing of the Parlasur deputy's assets and bank accounts. 

'Pepín' Rodríguez requested political asylum in Uruguay earlier this week, after revealing that he has been in that country since December 8. Describing himself as a "persecuted person," he said he would not return to Argentina due to fears for his safety and imprisonment. He said he would not appear before the judge, and offered to speak via videoconference, a proposal the judge would not accept.

"It is absolutely inappropriate and would appear to be a shortcut to obstruct the course of the investigation," Servini said in her ruling, declaring that the accused had "recently gave ample public evidence of his intention" to escape justice, "which was ratified by his defence attorney on May 18, 2021."

At the magistrate's request, Argentina's Security Minister will now notify the security forces of the measure and file his details with Interpol. A request will also go in to the Uruguayan Justice Ministry, asking that they try to locate Rodríguez Simón.

Servini had banned the ex-YPF executive from leaving the country but he was already in Uruguay when the order was issued. Rodríguez Simón was considered by most local news outlets to be a key "judicial operator" for the Macri government, due to his links with judges and members of the Supreme Court, as revealed by investigations from the court probing his telephone records.

Rodríguez Simón stands accused, along with other former government officials, of pressuring the directors of Grupo Indalo, Cristóbal López and Fabián De Sousa, with the ultimate aim of taking control of the duo's companies by conspiracy. The powerful business group, which includes divisions in media, oil and construction companies, commands the C5N news channel (which was fiercely critical of the Macri government), a number of radio stations, websites and newspapers, including Ámbito Financiero and the now-shuttered Buenos Aires Herald. Rodríguez Simón has been accused of pressuring C5N in particular and attempting to squeeze the station's finances.

In addition, the case is also probing the removal of a road concession for a Buenos Aires highway from another company within the group and a decision by AFIP to block a tax moratorium plan for energy firm Oil Combustibles SA, which owed billions of pesos to the state. De Souza and López, a casino and media tycoon, were jailed for two years during the Macri administration's time in office and the company was declared bankrupt. Those decisions are now under judicial review.

Both President Alberto Fernández, who replaced Macri in office, and Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015, commented this week on Rodríguez Simón, with the former saying that "all of the justice system knew he was the emissary of the National Government." 

Speaking at an event in Córdoba on Wednesday, Mauricio Macri said that "there is clearly a persecution of myself, my family and my former officials," though he said that he was "surprised" by Rodríguez Simón's decision to flee justice and did not agree with it. 

He alleged that López's claims of persecution by his former government were "invented" and a result of attempts to "recover the taxes of Argentines that he appropriated illegitimately."

Coalición Cívica leader Elisa Carrió defended the fugitive's behaviour, while describing that Servini as “an honest judge.” 

"This case is very serious because the complainants are thieves," the veteran politician told Clarín. “I can have many differences with Pepín, and I have them in other things, but he is the guy who put his face to the game and made them [De Souza and López] pay taxes.”

– TIMES/AFP

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