A federal prosecutor investigating the failed shooting attack against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last September 1 has formally requested that three defendants be brought to trial.
Federal Prosecutor Carlos Rívolo on Monday asked that Fernando Sabag Montiel, 35, and his girlfriend Brenda Uliarte, 23, be sent to trial as co-authors of the attempt to assassinate Argentina’s vice-president outside her flat in Recoleta, Buenos Aires City.
He further insisted that 27-year-old Nicolás Carrizo, the alleged chief of the so-called ‘copitos’ group (or “candy floss gang,”) and the couple’s former employer, also stand trial as a secondary or “necessary” participant in the attack.
If accepted by Judge María Eugenia Capuchetti, the prosecutor’s request would bring the investigation stage to a close. Fernández de Kirchner herself is opposed to any such move, calling for a deeper investigation to identify the alleged masterminds and financiers of the attack. The vice-president has asked for more evidence to be collected and believes the attack is linked to sectors of the opposition, including Juntos por el Cambio national deputy Gerardo Milman.
An advisor of the Frente de Todos parliamentary caucus has testified that 48 hours before the attack, Milman had met up with two female aides in a café near Congress, telling them that he would be on the Atlantic coast “when they kill” the vice-president.
Milman, who has not been indicted, denies the allegation. His secretaries have been investigated to ascertain the veracity of statements from them declaring that the words attributed to lawmaker are false.
According to a statement issued by the prosecutor on Monday, "from all the phones seized and analysed, there was no link whatsoever between those named and any group or person that at this stage would even allow us to suspect that they had been given assistance for the event.”
He added that "neither have any relevant elements been found ... that point to the collaboration of third parties with money for the attack."
In the trial request, Rívolo classified the case as “attempted homicide doubly aggravated by malice aforethought and the premeditated concurrence of two or more persons, aggravated by the use of a firearm.”
In his statement to the press, he assured that the accused had acted in a “premeditated” way to “think up a plan to carry out the assassination” of Fernández de Kirchner.
The failed shooting attack coincided with a major corruption case against Argentina’s former president, for which she was later sentenced to six years in prison and a lifetime ban on holding political office. Fernández de Kirchner denies the allegation and has appealed its verdict.
“Taking advantage of the confusion generated by the multitude of persons, Sabag Montiel stretches out his arm past the first line of individuals forming the human cordon in front of the vice-president, aims his firearm in the direction of her face, comes within a few centimetres and pulls the trigger at least once, with the click even being heard,” detailed the prosecution.
Sabag Montiel’s action was interrupted first by supporters waiting to greet the former president (2007-2015) at the door of her house and then by her bodyguards from the Federal Police.
Apart from the images of the security and other cameras among the many present that day around the vice-president’s flat, the prosecutor has plenty of further evidence, including the messages between Sabag Montiel and Uliarte planning the deed many days beforehand, as well as sharing the idea with third parties.
The planning even extended to the idea of renting rooms near Fernández de Kirchner’s flat and firing at her from the balcony although this scheme was finally dropped, it emerged from those conversations.
Regarding Carrizo, who was arrested two weeks after the attack, the prosecution cited a conversation with Uliarte minutes after the foiled attack where he thought that Sabag Montiel had used a firearm supplied by him.
“We are decided on killing that whore,” said Carrizo, who also maintained conversations with other people where he made it known that he had participated in planning the attack.
Reasons for request
Addressing the question of why he is seeking to progress the case to trial stage, Rívolo wrote that “extensive investigations … investigating money-laundering were unable to corroborate either that the attack under investigation had required any specific financing nor that those indicted had received any external financing or payment of any kind to carry it forward.”
“Regarding the financing of the attack, it is objectively and undeniably true that its logistics and material did not require a huge investment of money or other funding,” argued the prosecutor, bearing in mind that Sabag Montiel might even have picked up the weapon free since it had belonged to a friend of his who had died some time back and with whom the accused had lived.
“As for any possible financing of the indicted or direct payments, the evidence incorporated also permits us to rule that out for now,” he added, pointing out that Sabag Montiel had barely any income while his girlfriend had a welfare plan with the ANSES social security administration.
It was Carrizo who gave them the machine for making candy floss so that they could work as peddlers, he added.
”During the two years preceding the attack the accused had not received any sum of money which could be presumed to have been advance financing for the crime here investigated because all transfers and incomes analysed can be absolutely correlated to the informal subsistence activities of the indicted,” pointed out the prosecution.
Rívolo also referred to the possible links of the accused with any political party or grouping: “No link has arisen between any of the accused and any grouping or person permitting any suspicion as to the possibility of their having provided assistance for this episode. Neither have the statements of witnesses pointed in the direction of third parties or any relationship between the accused and political parties, groupings, etc. All the evidence gathered up to now reveals that the accused acted on their own account.”
CFK rejects decision
Responding to the news, Fernández de Kirchner on Monday rejected the request in a letter published on her social media accounts and website.
"The prosecutor completely omits to assess everything related to the lines of investigation that point to people beyond Uliarte, Sabag Montiel and Carrizo. There is no clearer practice to seek impunity in complex cases than to break them into small pieces," she wrote in a lengthy post.
She then alleged that "the whole investigation was characterised by avoiding knowing the truth.”
“It is riddled with witnesses who deleted their phones, evidence that was destroyed without investigating its causes and motivations, and an obvious and desperate attempt to avoid finding the possible involvement of third parties, financiers and instigators,” she charged.
The former president then claimed that she would never receive “justice, neither as a defendant nor as a victim,” alleging that the courts and the opposition “want me in jail or dead.”
Fernandez de Kirchner, who says she will not run for office in October’s election, claims she is a victim of a campaign of political and judicial persecution.
Judge Capichetti will now listen to the opinions of both parties, the defence and the plaintiffs, before defining if the three individuals remanded in custody should be sent to trial.
A portion of the case may remain under investigation if any evidence is found to be missing.