December 17, 2017
Saturday, February 28, 2015

Iron Mountain fire deemed arson

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at the Iron Mountain warehouse in the Barracas neighbourhood on February 5, 2014.

Flames in Barracas warehouse claimed 10 lives

A February 2014 fire in an Iron Mountain warehouse in the Barracas neighbourhood that claimed the lives of nine firefighters and one rescue worker while destroying sensitive documents has been found to be an act of arson following a forensic review.

After a “layer-by-layer” accounting of the remnants of the partially burnt-down warehouse in the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Barracas, investigators were able to pinpoint the starting point of the fire. Federal Police investigators found “traces of flammable substances and it has been shown that the fire’s starting point was caused by devices placed to that effect, given that pieces of conductors and electrical transformers were found in an area that did not correspond to equipment in the area.”

That finding was supported by the Industrial Technology Institute (INTI) while a report from the National Technological University (UTN) is still pending.

In addition, five employees of the warehouse have previously testified that when the fire broke out the water sprinklers failed to respond and arson was considered a possibility immediately after the blaze.

Iron Mountain, a company specialized in the storage of business documents has a history of fires in its warehouses, with at least two fires in London and New Jersey having been found to have been caused intentionally.

Although an earlier investigation led by en economic crime and money-laundering unit had eliminated “criminal hypotheses” concerning the fire in May 2014, it has been noted that the firms most affected by the fire were multinationals, large Argentine companies and financial entities. Among them was HSBC Argentina.

HSBC Argentina has been accused of tax fraud, tax evasion and money-laundering in a scheme that includes thousands of Argentine citizens transferring funds of up that US$3 billion to HSBC’s Geneva branch.

Iron Mountain itself has also been under investigation for money-laundering activities.

The police report, now in the hands of prosecutor Marcela Sánchez, opens up the door to further investigations to determine who may have been responsible for the fire and accordingly, to determine their responsibility in the deaths of the 10 firefighters that perished .

The volunteer firefighters were killed when one of the warehouse’s walls collapsed. Several more were severely injured.

—Herald staff with AP

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