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ARGENTINA | 27-03-2019 04:56

Stornelli refuses to testify in espionage investigation, faces 'in abstentia' charge

Carlos Stornelli fails to appear in Dolores court after fourth summons by Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla.

Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli faces an "in abstentia" charge, after he again failed to appear before Dolores Federal Court Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla to provide testimony for an investigation into alleged illegal espionage within Argentina's judiciary.

Ramos Padilla first summoned Stornelli to give evidence on March 7. It is the fourth time since then that the prosecutor has refused to appear in court.

Stornelli is accused of using a frontman, the phoney lawyer Marcelo D'Alessio, to extort money from witnesses in exchange for favours. Stornelli denies the accusation, saying it is a ploy to stymie his and Judge Claudio Bonadio's ongoing investigations into alleged widespread corruption during the Kirchner governments.

His defence lawyer, Roberto Ribas, argued last week that Ramos Padilla and the Dolores Federal Court had no jurisdiction over the case. 

Meanwhile, Ramos Padilla faces a Magistrate's Council decision over his dramatic public appearance in Congress last week, where he gave a fiery presentation about his findings so far. The Macri government and its allies argue Ramos Padilla is biased and acted in contempt of Judicial norms. The Council's Disciplinary committee met Monday for a preliminary meeting on the matter.

For his part, Stornelli is calling for the summons to be nullified on the grounds Ramos Padilla has "acted in an informal way... as part of a clear and undue attack of one branch of power against another, which is inadmissible in institutional terms and which implies a clear attack on constitutional provisions".

PADILLA'S FINDINGS

Stornelli faces three charges of alleged extortion.

The first and most public involves businessman Pedro Echebest who claims D'Alessio demanded US$300,000 in exchange for protection in the so-called "notebooks of corruption" investigation, which Stornelli is leading in the pre-trial stage, into an alleged kickback scheme orchestrated by the Kirchners' former Planning minister Julio de Vido.

Stornelli was summoned to appear in Dolores on March 7 and 20 but refused on the grounds that Ramos Padilla should be removed from the case. On the third occasion, he cited his own Judicial schedule as the reason for failing to appear.

The prosecutor "is accused, particularly, of demanding and ordering investigations which ran parallel to judicial cases", Ramos Padilla determined in his March 7 ruling.

He also faces accusations of "having acted with Marcelo Sebastián D'Alessio and other people who are being identified and investigated in the undertaking of illegal espionaje with links to the judicial investigations in his control".

Among the names found in evidence seized from D'Alessio's home is Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal. The country's AFI intelligence agency has denied the Governor was spied on from within its operations.

The judge also alleges that Stornelli was aware D'Alessio was operating as an agent for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and, as such, "did not posses the legal attributes" to carry out judicial investigations.

-TIMES/PERFIL

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