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May 28, 2017
Friday, April 21, 2017

New evidence puts Báez in the hot seat

Switzerland provides documentation on bank transfers that could further implicate businessman close to Kirchner family

Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello summoned jailed construction tycoon Lázaro Báez and his children to give testimony after new documents sent from Switzerland revealed more information about banking transfers that could further implicate them.

Casanello summoned a total 27 people, including financial analyst Federico Elaskar, Leonardo Fariña, Báez’s lawyer Jorge Chueco and accountant Daniel Pérez Gadín, and Báez’s four adult children. It has been a year since Báez was ordered under arrest, and held in the Ezeiza Federal Penitentiary complex. The round of testimonies will begin on April, 27 and will continue until June 6. “Those cited should present themselves in the indicated dates, if they don’t comply they could be declared in contempt of court and their immediate arrest would be ordered,” stated the judicial resolution.

The new court summons are based on information that Casanello received from Switzerland in relation to transfers between two bank accounts, 608741 and 608742 of Bank J. Safra, and Marketing & Logistic Management SA and SGI Argentina (Panama) firms. One of the judge’s hypothesis is that 33 million dollars was transferred from Helvetic Bank in Switzerland to Báez, one of the operations that led Báez to be indicted for money-laundering, and to his arrest on April 5, 2016. The documents also reported another account from PKB Privatbank SA which indicate that “Switzerland had been part of the route that had been used to transfer funds illegally obtained,” claimed the judge.

Báez is currently indicted for money-laundering via financial maneuvers carried out by the SGI financial consultancy, with the aim of removing millions of dollars from the country and using allegedly fake receipts to fabricate expenses in public works contracts granted by the Kirchner governments. At least 100 operations for an estimated 20 million dollars were made between these accounts, it is alleged.

There is a possibility that Báez could agree to a plea-bargain in exchange for a lesser sentence or some type of benefit, but it would have to be with Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuan who is leading the case. Plea bargain deals are arranged when the accused provides information that helps clear up a case, or provides evidence that would implicate those people that are allegedly above them in the organisation. Fariña is the first of the accused involved in the case who agreed to a plea-bargain deal. After his testimony, he was released from jail and was provided protection with a security detail. Báez is hoping to get a similar deal.

In the past year, there were reportedly various times when Báez and his family were considering providing evidence in exchange for the charges against them being dropped or dismissed. His children had met with prosecutor Marijuan and a Justice Ministry official towards the end of the year. They were informed about the terms of a possible plea-bargain, and were even designated a lawyer from Santa Cruz to represent them. If they were to provide evidence that would implicate the former president, it could have been the beginning of a an arrangement between the two parties. But this didn’t occur on the day of the scheduled meeting, Báez challenged Marijuan and the agreement was broken off.

Báez to be transferred to Santa Cruz prison

On Monday, Lázaro Báez will be transferred temporarily to a prison in Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz province, in order to see his mother who is gravely ill. Only a week ago he had been taken urgently to the Los Arcos clinic in the Buenos Aires City neighbourhood of Palermo, after he was suffering a severe arrhythmia. Báez had tried to get permission to be put under house arrest based on his state of health, since in addition to arrhythmia, he is also allegedly suffering from hyper tension and diabetes. But his lawyer Maximiliano Rusconi’s request was denied by Casanello. The businessman will be transferred to Penitentiary complex Unit 15 in Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz province. w

Herald staff

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