Laura Alonso, head of the Anti-Corruption Office (OA), appeared before Federal Judge Luis Rodríguez on Wednesday to answer the accusations against her with a defiant statement. “I never covered up any infraction by [former Energy minister Juan José] Aranguren, nor turned a blind eye to anything in the OA,” said the official, who will still face further questioning on cover-up charges.
Alonso is accused of not investigating Aranguren over alleged conflict of interests. She denies the charges and has requested her acquittal.
“I complied strictly with all the duties and functions of my post, as can be seen from the substantiated file so no crime can be ascribed to me,” the official told Judge Rodríguez in writing, after arriving at his offices at 10.45am accompanied by her lawyer Marta Nercellas.
She submitted a 15-page report detailing her version of the Aranguren case before leaving at 11.15am.
The judge now has 10 days to decide whether to send her to trial or to acquit her.
The case is based on a denunciation presented in 2016 by Frente para la Victoria (“Victory Front,” FpV) deputies Rodolfo Tailhade and Martín Doñate, who accused Aranguren of malfeasance and conflict of interests in taking decisions to benefit the oil company Grupo Royal Dutch Shell PLC, of which he continued to be a shareholder after having been its CEO.
Alonso is accused of covering up Aranguren’s alleged infractions when it was her obligation as head of the government’s anti-corruption watchdog to investigate him.
Alonso defended herself again on Thursday, insisting: “I did not omit anything to which I was legally obliged, discharging my public office with total integrity and good faith. I promoted the investigation of the supposed infractions of Aranguren denounced to my office, substantiating the corresponding proceeding. I even expanded the investigation with respect to other possible infractions which had not been denounced, collecting all the necessary evidence.”
Alonso also argued that she allowed the intervention of “other public offices with higher legal status [the Justice Ministry] and independence [SIGEN comptrollers]” and they all reached the same conclusions as her.
“As could then be seen, with the first news that there might be a possible incompatibility or conflict of interests in the case of Aranguren, the OA immediately adopted all the corresponding measures, drafting and substantiating in due time and form the corresponding file, after which it was concluded that there had been no infringement of administrative law or public ethic,” she said.
“The law does not prohibit shareholding in the chapter devoted to conflicts of interest,” she pointed out, and that “if the official abstains in the terms proposed in this report, any benefit obtained by a firm in which he holds shares does not fall into the hypotheses of conflict of interests as per Chapter V of Law 25.188, so that the law does not oblige him to relinquish his shares,” it was no less true that this leads to “a constant questioning of the measures adopted” so that in all prudence it was recommended to Aranguren that he “weigh this circumstance and shed his shares in the company Royal Dutch Shell Plc or take some action such as placing his assets in a blind trust to avoid actions which could jeopardise the aims of public office and the image which society should have of its servants.”