May 24, 2013
Once trial: TBA suspect slips off the hook
The Once case will now be lacking a key suspect. TBA businessman Mario Cirigliano was included among the defendants when the trial was announced on January 16 - but by February 14, he no longer figured on that list. According to an appeal filed yesterday by the prosecutor investigating the case, the TBA (Buenos Aires Railways) mogul, whose company was responsible for running the Sarmiento train line on which the accident happened, was reprieved from facing trial on February 14 and was notified of the fact on February 28: one day before President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s State of the Nation speech, and a good day to quietly bury bad news.
Barely ten days after the first anniversary of the Once train accident, which killed 51 and left over 700 injured when an over-capacity train failed to brake on entering Once station on February 22, 2012, federal investigator Federico Delgado revealed yesterday that federal judge Claudio Bonadío had ruled that Cirigliano had no case to answer and would not face trial.
Apparently, this unexpected decision was taken when Bonadío took the case to trial, with Cirigliano’s brother, Claudio Sergio, included among the defendants. According to a legal text presented yesterday by federal prosecutor Federico Delgado, Bonadío ruled that Cirigliano would not face trial on February 13 but only notified him on Thursday, February 28.
The Cirigliano brothers were previously accused of having misused the millions of pesos invested by the state in the train system and therefore allowing the accident to happen through negligence.
What is most interesting about the revelation is its timing. The Once case, which includes former transport secretaries among its defendants, was taken to trial by Bonadío on January 16. Mario Cirigliano still figured among the defendants at that time.
However, the decision to remove him from the accused was taken a full month later, on February 14 but not revealed until after the first anniversary of the tragedy. The news also had no impact in the local media on February 28 or March 1, with the headlines taken up with the AMIA accord and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s anticipated attack on the judiciary during her marathon state-of-the-nation address on March 1.
“It’s true: despite the few metres that separate the Public Ministry from the prosecutor’s office, and just as we stated would happen a year ago, it is causing us real difficulty to move this case forward,” said Delgado yesterday, accusing unnamed forces of “completing a tidy and well-planned extraction of a suspect” from a trial “between midnight and dawn.”
The prosecutor also said that the judge’s measure was “unprecedented”, as it had been taken after the prosecutor had stated that all of the accused should stand trial, including Mario Cirigliano.
“In other words, the development of the case has revealed in close detail that legal procedure has been used for specific ends, as the esteemed judge has removed a person from the obligation of facing trial,” stated Delgado in the appeal that he filed yesterday, which the federal court will review, according to local media.