Two-hundred kilometres from the Retiro neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, where the country's central courthouse Comodoro Py is located, a provincial judge is investigating allegations of widespread espionage within Argentina's Judiciary.
The investigation led by Judge Alejo Ramos Padilla in the provincial city of Dolores has already exposed some of the dangerous liaisons that exist between the intelligence services and the Judiciary.
At his court in Dolores, in Buenos Aires Provinces, the case against Federal Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli is just another case --- a small chapter in a supposed scheme which could only be interpreted clearly at a safe distance from Retiro.
In his latest rulings, Ramos Padilla has begun to outline the extent of the alleged espionage: it includes the possible involvement of local and foreign intelligence services in key legal cases including the so-called "notebooks of corruption scandal, and those involving contraband and big business.
The magistrate has emphasised the supposed links between lawyer Marcelo D'Alessio, who allegedly operated an extortion mechanism on Stornelli's behalf, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States' anti-drug agency. His arguments are based on documents that were seized from D'Alessio's home and which originate from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from the United States, as well as official government documents.
The judge also seized sophisticated weapons, secret recording devices, items tied to diverse security forces and even spy technology which the Argentine Judiciary does not have access to. It seems D'Alessio was not just a "crazy man" hanging around the court system. That at least is what the judge's investigations seem to indicate.
D'Alessio's manœuvres, according the Ramos Padilla's arguments, point to the alleged crimes of illicit association and extortion. They apparently involved a key objective: illegal espionage to gather sensitive information; a goal, to induce fear; and a solution to that fear, which was offered in exchange for money.
Ramos Padilla's decision to address Congress on the matter is an apparent attempt to ensure that another of the three branches of power begins to focus its attention and concern on the issue. Indeed, the alleged illegal espionage of another country on Argentina would exceed the competencies of a federal judge.
The judge also sent Congress a copy of the documents seized from D'Alessio.
The main case of espionage and extortion, according to sources close to the case, involved the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. In an annex in the judge's presentation to Congress he emphasises "the very strong interest in the accused Marcelo D'Alessio in this (PDVSA) issue which exceeds local and national issues, while at the same time across the region (of South America) there was debate about whether to freeze the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA's assets".
D'Alessio's activities were no improvised, according to the investigation.
"There is abundant information about this operation - in a digital format or manuscripts about (the former director of PDVSA Gonzalo) Brusa Dovat, who he supposedly extorted for money, which include his professional history, family, entries and exits from the country, the history of the company, etc., demonstrating that this was a priority operation", the judge told Congress.
By Emilia Delfino and Cecilia Devanna-PERFIL