Friday, June 14, 2024

ARGENTINA | 29-05-2024 14:47

Supreme Court overturns acquittal of Cristóbal López, Fabián De Souza in Oil Combustibles case

Justices on the nation's highest tribunal unanimously decide to accept a challenge presented by the national Attorney-General, overturning a decision by the Federal Criminal Cassation Court to acquit businessmen.

The Supreme Court, with the signature of all its justices, has decided to accept a challenge presented by the Attorney-General, overturning the decision of the Federal Criminal Cassation Court acquitting Cristóbal López and Fabián De Souza of charges in the framework of the so-called ‘Oil Combustibles’ case.

This decision is based on a ruling considering the Cassation Court’s acquittal of López and De Souza for fraudulent administration of public funds to be arbitrary. 

The main accusation against López and De Souza centred on the withholding of sums totalling eight billion pesos which should have been paid by Oil Combustibles SA into the AFIP tax bureau as fuel taxation.

The Supreme Court concluded that the Cassation Court had arbitrarily resolved the lawsuits related to the interpretation of the evidence in the case. This decision implies that López and De Souza will again face charges of fraudulent administration of public funds, given that overturning the acquittal reopens the judicial proceedings against them.

Yet not all the objections presented by the Attorney-General were accepted by the Supreme Court. The points related to lifting the injunctions and the rejection of the integral repayment ordered against former AFIP chief Ricardo Echegaray were turned down for lack of a definite ruling in those specific aspects of the case.

The case has drawn considerable public and media attention due to its high-profile implications and the magnitude of the alleged fiscal fraud. Cristóbal López and Fabián De Souza, both prominent businessmen, had been accused of not transferring to AFIP the taxes collected from consumers for fuel sales, instead using those funds to finance other business operations.

Both business tycoons have close ties to former Kirchnerite administrations. Grupo Indalo, the pair’s mother company, whose major shareholder is Oil Combustibles, employs thousands of workers in the oil and media sectors, including the anti-government C5N news channel.

In a previous interview with Perfil, De Sousa told journalist Jorge Fontevecchia that the media expansion of the business conglomerate was funded, at least partially, through the money it “saved” by kicking taxes down the road – a public acknowledgement of the charges levelled against López and his business partner.

The Supreme Court decision to overturn the acquittal highlights the tensions and debates surrounding judicial interpretation and the application of the law in cases of fiscal fraud. 

The return of the charges against López and De Souza signifies that the judicial proceedings will continue with new stages of evaluation and a possible trial.


De Sousa acknowledges setback

At a press conference, De Souza said Wednesday that the news was not expected, though he claimed that “technically we are still acquitted.”

“Although it was not what we expected, it does not put us in a difficult position to demonstrate reality,” he claimed.

De Souza, who claims he was “politically persecuted” by former president Mauricio Macri’s 2015-2019 administration, refused to endorse a line of questioning asking if there had been “political interference” in the case.

“Today I don't see any interference,” he added. 



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