June 20, 2013
Court removes Rafecas from Ciccone case
‘Serious’ doubts over impartiality
An appeals court yesterday removed Judge Daniel Rafecas from an investigation into influence-peddling allegations involving Vice-President Amado Boudou and the print and minting company Ciccone Calcográfica. The court made the decision after Rafecas was accused of bias for exchanging text messages with a lawyer linked to one of the alleged suspects.
The three-member appeals court said in a unanimous decision it was “forced to remove Dr. Rafecas” over “serious and reasonable” doubts about his impartiality after considering the allegations waged again him.
José María Núñez Carmona, an associate of Boudou, challenged Rafecas through his lawyer, Diego Pirota. Pirota said the judge had exchanged text messages with another lawyer linked to Núñez Carmona, specifically to discuss aspects of the Ciccone case.Pirota also challenged the judge for making comments about the investigation to a Buenos Aires newspaper in an interview. Pirota also said the judge had used the chat system of his cell phone to discuss the case with the lawyer Ignacio Danuzzo Iturraspe.
Rafecas had described the conversations with the lawyer as “private” after the accusations surfaced, but the court said the conversations amounted to “more than a simple exchange of opinions with someone not involved in the case.” Danuzzo Iturraspe served as Núñez Carmona’s lawyer in other cases.
The new judge who will now head the investigation is expected to be named today via a draw. Prosecutor Carlos Rívolo has also been challenged by the alleged suspects who have yet to face formal court accusations.
Despite the lottery system involved in selecting the next judge, two of the courts involved are presided over by the same magistrate, Norberto Oyarbide.
The new judge will have to rule on the challenge filed against Rívolo. Rafecas is currently also being investigated by the Council of Magistrates for allegedly discussing the case.
Boudou had accused Rafecas and court officials of leaking to the press a recent raid on an apartment of his property in Puerto Madero.
The judge was investigating alleged ties between Boudou and Alejandro Vandenbroele.
Press reports have claimed that Vandenbroele was Boudou’s frontman in Ciccone, which was rescued from bankruptcy in 2010 allegedly because it was certain to clinch a contract with the Central Bank to print 100 peso bills.
The appeals court said that according to reports Núñez Carmona was an executive of a company that may of have dealings with Ciccone and was thus potentially connected to the case and should not have engaged in conversations with Rafecas.
The court said the conversation between judge and lawyer went on for a couple of days and was “exclusively” about the court investigation.
Herald staff with agencies