Showtime in Campagnoli’s impeachment process
The impeachment trial against suspended prosecutor José María Campagnoli yesterday turned into a media show starring Clarín media group journalist Jorge Lanata, who appeared before the tribunal that has been charged with deciding Campagnoli’s fate.
Though the journalist did not provide essential information to the case, he did raise a firestorm in the courtroom by publicly criticizing prosecutors Marcelo García Berro and Adolfo Villate, who accuse Campagnoli of malfeasance and of interfering with a colleague’s investigation.
Prosecutor Daniel Adler — who leads the impeachment tribunal — appeared at 11.30 am and complained about delays.
“Please call the first witness,” he told the secretary, as those in attendance stared at door. Lanata appeared five minutes later, wearing a blue jacket and a red sweater.
Ricardo Gil Lavedra, the former lawmaker who represents Campagnoli, asked Lanata to explain the process that led to the investigation that aired on the journalist’s TV programme Periodismo para todos on April 14, 2013 which featured controversial businessmen Leonardo Fariña and Federico Elaskar.
Both reported having laundered money for Kirchnerite business leader Lázaro Baéz. Despite later saying they lied, Campagnoli used Elaskar’s testimony to investigate an alleged attempt at extortion aimed at Báez, while reportedly also investigating money laundering, a crime that was already being probed by a federal court.
“We started investigating the case when Fariña got married with a fashion model. We heard that the Federal Police’s special GEOF squad was in charge of the security of the wedding party. That was weird. Then we also heard that Fariña was (late former president) Néstor Kirchner’s son and that made everything more interesting,” the host of Periodismo para todos said.
According to Lanata, he first interviewed Fariña with a hidden camera and then his colleague Nicolás Wiñazki talked to Elaskar, who reportedly agreed to talk on camera.
“Nicolás was worried. He had doubts about whether to air Elaskar’s interview or not. He feared that Elaskar could commit suicide,” Lanata said, adding that he had several meetings with his crew to debate the decision, but he was the one who made the final call.
“I told them: ‘We are journalists and they are crooks. Let’s air the interview,’” Lanata brutally recalled.
Two days after the interview was broadcast, Campagnoli opened a case but a day later a court said that it was an issue that had to be investigated by a federal court. Campagnoli, however, then relaunched a case that had been filed earlier in his office. A complaint had been filed against Elaskar for fraud but Campagnoli modified the matter of the investigation and Elaskar became the victim of an extortion.
Journalists, magistrates: friends?
Prosecutors García Berro and Villate focussed their questions on the relationship Lanata’s crew had with Campagnoli.
Lanata told the tribunal that he first met Campagnoli when he was summoned to the prosecutor’s office in the City’s Saavedra neighbourhood to testify. Some claim that day marked the beginning of a close relationship.
Lanata, however, yesterday played down the connection.
“There was no link. Nobody covers stories from a prosecutor’s office in Saavedra,” the journalist said when he was asked how he had obtained a resolution issued by the prosecutor.
“Did you check the information?” prosecutor Villate asked Lanata ironically. But the star journalist fired back: “How do you feel when you defend Báez? Does he pay well?”
Adler tried to calm the mood of the courtroom but his efforts were fruitless. Lanata then left the courtroom and Wiñazki took his place to testify. Prosecutors asked him if Lanata’s crew had given the information to Campagnoli to have judicial support but the journalist vehemently shot down the suggestion.
Clarín newspaper editor Daniel Santoro was also summoned as well as Judge Ricardo Recondo, the number two in the Magistrates Council, and Luis María Cabral, the head of the Magistrates Association, who last year backed Campagnoli when he was suspended in December.
“Mistakes that prosecutors and judges might make are revised by higher courts,” Recondo said in what was clearly a thinly veiled criticism of the impeachment tribunal against Campagnoli.