Experts from Argentina’s Airport Security Police (PSA) have gained access to the contents of the mobile phone of Fernando Sabag Montiel, the individual who last month attempted to assassinate Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The crucial breakthrough, confirmed by PSA chief José Glinski on Thursday, will allow investigators to comb through thousands of messages dating back almost three years as they try to establish the extent and involvement of other individuals in the failed shooting attempt.
According to Glinski, experts have now gained access to “three Google accounts” and the “entire database” of the Telegram messaging service used by Sabag Montiel since 2020.
The PSA chief confirmed the breakthrough to reports on Thursday after he had travelled to the Comodoro Py federal courthouse to meet with the judge in charge of the case, María Eugenia Capuchetti.
WhatsApp messages were also recovered that were not already in the casefile, according to reports.
The news will come as major relief to the judge and the prosecutors involved in the case, who feared that crucial information may have been lost after the mobile phone was reset to factory settings in the aftermath of the attack.
Glinski told reporters that the information had been recovered from the “cloud” (servers that are accessed over the Internet and not from a device) after experts had managed to extract the memory and SIM card from the phone and successfully place them in a similar device.
"That information is going to be key, along with the multimedia files" that were also recovered when it comes to reconstructing what happened, said the PSA chief.
Accessing messages sent via Telegram will be of “greater importance” as the service is where "groups characterised as hate groups proliferate," Glinski speculated,
Sabag Montiel, 35, and his partner Brenda Uliarte, 23, were charged three weeks ago with “attempted aggravated homicide.”
Last weekend, Judge Capuchetti also indicted Nicolás Gabriel Carrizo, 27, and Agustina Díaz, 21, for their alleged role in the failed attack.
Carrizo, the leader of the so-called ‘copitos’ (“candy floss”) gang thought to be behind the attempt on the vice-president’s life, and Diaz were charged as “accomplices” in a judicial resolution stretching to more than 127 pages.
The federal judge ordered the seizure of 100 million pesos (around US$670,000)
in assets of Carrizo and Díaz, as well as ordering that both be remanded in custody for their part in the “premeditated attempt to kill Cristina Elisabet Fernández de Kirchner.”
Capuchetti accused Carrizo of having "actively participated in the planning of the event” and of “having provided a 22-calibre handgun” which was used in the attack.
All four of the group allegedly involved in the attack are now in police custody.
‘El Presto’ link
In an unexpected development, it emerged this week that investigators probing Uliarte’s mobile phone had discovered a series of WhatsApp audio messages that imply the 23-year-old had an intimate relationship with Eduardo Miguel Prestofelippo, an influencer and YouTube star better known as ‘El Presto.’
Prestofelippo has a history with the Judiciary – in 2020 he was arrested for threatening Fernández de Kirchner and the harassment of First Lady Fabiola Yáñez.
Experts examining Uliarte’s phone have discovered at least three messages on her phone that indicate a link with Prestofelippo. According to local reports, in one message he tries to organise a meeting between the two before travelling from Córdoba, where he lives, to Buenos Aires City.
In a subsequent message, Prestofelippo asks Uliarte: "I really liked the night we spent, did you have a nice time?"
According to the investigators, the link was "frequent and sentimental,” with messages exchanged over a three-month period that ended last July.
The alleged relationship is relevant to the case. Immediately after the attack, El Presto, who is under investigation for incitement to violence and is a fervent anti-Kirchnerite voice on social networks, uploaded a video in which he dismissed the assassination attempt as staged.
"Congratulations to the INCAA [film body] and all the Kirchnerite militancy that made a fantastic performance, obviously with that first great frustrated actress that we have, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner," he said in a video posted to his hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
Prestofelippo face two open court cases for allegedly committing crimes related to instigating violence. The first relates to a post he made at the height of a coronavirus pandemic against the vice-president, when he warned that she would "not make it out alive" from a supposedly impending social outbreak.
In February of this year, Prestofelippo was sentenced to 30 days of effective house arrest for the harassment of and discrimination against Yáñez through her social media accounts.
On Thursday, the YouTube star’s legal team denied their client had any involvement in the failed attack on the vice-president, declaring that Prestofelippo had “nothing to do with this whole question of the attack or with those who carried it out.”
"Sometimes they leak an audio on purpose because they are already investigating other lines," said Marcelo Peña, a lawyer for Prestofelippo, pointing the finger at the security forces.
"Eduardo didn't even remember his relationship with Uliarte," added the lawyer, who said that his client would “put himself at the disposal of the courts so that they can check his phone and carry out all the necessary procedures.”