A high-profile federal prosecutor says the extortion scandal that has rattled Argentina's political, judicial and journalistic elite is a reflection of of a "Judiciary in crisis".
The scandal centres around lawyer Marcelo D'Alessio, who was arrested last Wednesday on charges of extortion. He is accused of operating on behalf of federal prosecutor Carlos Stornelli to extort agribusinessman Pedro Etchebest in exchange for protection in the ongoing investigation into widespread graft during the previous Kirchner administrations, for which Stornelli is the lead prosecutor. That case is known as the "notebooks of corruption" investigation.
"We have a Judiciary which is divorced from the Law", Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado said Monday. He described D'Alessio as a "minor player" in a broader crisis facing the country's legal system.
"These are informally institutionalised players who are a de-fact part of the general judicial system, who are not allowed in the Constitution (to participate in the Judiciary), but who are nonetheless there", he told the El Destape news portal.
Delgado described what he perceived as examples of this phenomenon in situations within the country's courthouse.
"In the press room at the Comodoro Py courthouse (in Buenos Aires), there are people who say they're journalists but nobody knows who they are", he said.
"There are very good people in the courts, but there are also many good people who keep their mouths shut, and sometimes silence not only validates them it also reproduces" the problem, the prosecutor added.
Argentina's interim Attorney General Eduardo Casal last week confirmed he had opened a disciplinary investigation into Delgado's fellow Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli.
Stornelli was summoned last Thursday to appear before Casal to answer to allegations he was involved in extortion and bribery carried out in his name by D'Alessio.
The scandal has also put pressure on some of the country's highest-profile journalists.
Daniel Santoro, the Clarín newspaper journalist, quit his seat on the primetime debate show Animales Sueltos after damning information suggesting he spied on his co-panelists in cahoots with D'Alessio.
Former president-cum-senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has also made her opinions known on the matter.
The Senator is engulfed in several corruption investigations, some of which are being pursued in the pre-trail stage by prosecutor Stornelli.
The country's Judiciary "has done with my cases what they haven't done with anyone else's", Fernández de Kirchner said Wednesday, in a fiery speech from her seat in the Senate..
"And what's up with those people who are filming, recording, photographing, WhatsApping and asking for bribes in beach shacks", she added, referring to revealing images of D'Alessio and Stornelli in Pinamar, on Argentina's coast, and the WhatsApp screenshots which have, at the very least, tarnished Stornelli's image.