Assailant Fernando Sabag Montiel and his girlfriend, Brenda Uliarte, are – for now – the only two individuals in custody for the failed assassination attempt of Argentina’s Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. According to the judge overseeing the case, the act was premeditated.
After a week of investigation and an ever-bulging casefile, investigators are still attempting to reconstruct the details of the shooting attack that miraculously failed.
Sabag Montiel was the first to be detained, almost immediately after the incident on the night of Thursday, September 1. Though members of the Federal Police were involved in the efforts to arrest him, questions remain over the lack of security and relative inaction of those on duty. The justice system is also investigating the role that security forces played, and an administrative inquiry is underway to determine whether any culpability exists for the vice-president's lack of protection.
As no hypothesis has been ruled out, prosecutors in the case have requested the telephone numbers of the security guards designated to protect Fernández de Kirchner. Investigators plan to cross-reference these numbers against the attacker’s seized phone to see if there was any prior contact.
Thus far, Sabag Montiel has decided to remain silent in both his appearances before the court. His mobile phone has provided some information after investigators were able to extract its SIM card and memory card, but a potentially critical mistake was made in the process – the Federal Police, utilising software and forensic experts, tried to extract data from the accused's mobile phone but were unable to do so. Judge Maria Capuchetti decided to accept the offer of the Airport Security Police (PSA) to examine the equipment with a more advanced programme, but when an officer connected the phone to the device, a factory reset was triggered. It is not known whether the information on the device remains salvageable.
Public and private security cameras in the vicinity of Fernández de Kirchner's apartment in Recoleta have also been analysed. They revealed that the girlfriend of the accused, Brenda Uliarte, was there on the night in question – a finding that contradicted previous claims she made in a television interview that she had not seen her partner for 48 hours.
It has since been revealed that both individuals were in the area long before the attack occurred – hence the decision to conclude the act was premeditated.
Additionally, information on Sabag Montiel’s SIM card and memory card revealed photographs of the duo carrying the weapon used in the attack prior to the attempted assassination.
Uliarte was arrested last Sunday night and has since told the judge that she had nothing to do with the attack, claiming that she was unaware of her boyfriend's intentions.
But investigators do not agree: they contend that the evidence against her is sufficient to move forward with an indictment, as is the case with Sabag Montiel.