Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi will take on the work of Claudio Bonadio, after being selected by lottery to lead the late federal judge’s court until a replacement is found.
As well as those from his own court, he takes on a number of high-profile cases as a result, including the infamous ‘Cuadernos’ corruption notebooks probe – which has Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at the centre of the investigation.
Bonadio, a controversial figure, died on February 4 at his home in the Belgrano neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. He had been locked in a fierce dispute with Fernández de Kirchner for at least six years, leading a number of investigations against the ex-president.
Before the summer recess, the late judge decided to send the ‘Cuadernos’ probe to trial. The case is based on notebooks kept by a driver which allegedly detail public works graft at the Federal Planning Ministry during the Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations.
These records, according to the judge, expose illegal financial wrongdoing involving both top officials and business leaders.
The investigation, which was launched in 2018, has some problem areas: it is based on photocopies of the notebooks, which were provided to a La Nación journalist, and the confessions from whistleblowers, whose testimonies were not recorded, as is required by law.
Martínez de Giorgi has previously been involved in a case involving alleged Kirchnerite corruption that wasn’t in Bonadio’s hands. The new appointee oversaw an investigation involving Víctor Manzanares, a former accountant of the Kirchners, who wanted to turn whistleblower and give evidence in the ‘Cuadernos’ case.
Manzanares claimed that he had held meetings with then-federal judge Norberto Oyarbide and Javier Fernández, an official at the National Auditor-General’s Office and known Peronist judicial operator. At the time, Oyarbide was investigating both Néstor and Cristina Kirchner for alleged embezzlement.
“Although at first glance the multiplicity of information gathered about the defendants would seem to suggest the possibility of structuring a criminal hypothesis in their regard, a deeper analysis allows us to conclude that it is nothing more than a song of sirens, a mirage,” Martínez de Giorgi wrote in a ruling on December 30, downplaying the importance of the probe led by Bonadio.
Martínez de Giorgi was born in 1966 and entered the Judiciary in the late 1980s. He holds degrees from the Universidad Kennedy and the University of Palermo and has previously taught law at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA). He was a secretary of the second chamber of the Federal Court of Appeals and in 2006, he began serving as a deputy judge at the Comodoro Py courthouse.
In 2012, he was appointed as a federal judge, overseeing Federal Court 8 (he will now also take on 11, which Bonadio had led since 1994).
Martínez de Giorgi’s office is located on the fourth floor of the courthouse, located in the City neighbourhood of Retiro.
With a low profile, in contrast to Bonadio’s, he has always sought to avoid the limelight. However, he has failed on a couple of occasions.
Most notably, the judge oversaw an investigation probing fraud related to the ‘Sueños Compartidos’ housing construction plan, assigned to the Fundación Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a branch of the famous human rights group, presided over by Hebe Pastor de Bonafini.
In 2016, Martínez de Giorgi declared Bonafini in contempt in court after she failed to appear to give testimony in the case. The judge ended up going to the headquarters of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo group to question the activist.
In March 2017, Martínez de Giorgi indicted the couple who raised the grandson of another famed activist, Estela Barnes de Carlotto, the president of Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo human rights group.
Barnes de Carlotto found Ignacio, her grandson, in August 2014. His daughter Laura was kidnapped during the 1976- 1983 military dictatorship and held in the clandestine detention centre known as ‘La Cacha,’ in the city of La Plata, Buenos Aires Province while she was pregnant. Laura gave birth to a baby boy in June 1978 and was later murdered. Her son was snatched by the military and given to a couple who lived in the city of Olavarría.
Martinez de Giorgi charged Clemente Hurban and Juana Rodríguez for the crimes of “mispresenting facts” and “alteration of the status of a minor,” as well as former police doctor Julio Sacher, who allegedly signed a fake birth certificate for the couple.
In recent years, Martínez de Giorgi has entered the limelight again, conducting an investigation attempting to determine if bribes were paid by companies involved in the tunnelling of the Sarmiento rail underpass.
The firms involved are Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht and IECSA SA (today known as Sacde), a private company linked to former president Mauricio Macri’s family.
The federal judge is also investigating whether the Macri Group broke the law in the purchase of six wind farms and their subsequent resale, an investigation first broken by Perfil journalist Emilia Delfino.