Thursday, April 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 08-08-2023 11:43

Expert reports, Fernández de Kirchner appeal puts ‘Cuadernos’ graft case in spotlight

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s legal team calls for case’s dismissal after another expert examination detects further irregularities in composition of graft notebooks allegedly kept by driver Oscar Centeno.

The high-profile 'Cuadernos de las Coimas' investigation focused on alleged bribery and corruption in the awarding of public works contracts during the Kirchnerite administrations is under renewed pressure after expert reports cast doubt over their composition.

Defence lawyers for Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, one of the key figures indicted in the probe, on Tuesday requested the dismissal of all charges against their client on the basis of conclusions from two expert reports. 

The former president’s legal team filed a request with the Supreme Court noting that the notebooks on which the allegations have been based were falsified and manipulated. It asked the nation’s highest tribunal to urgently seek a copy of expert reports that conclude that at least three of the eight notebooks at the heart of the case suffered alterations, erasures and over-writings.

The development comes just a few days after it emerged in local media that at least one expert report commissioned by Judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi had concluded that “irregularities” in the text of the notebooks had been detected. 

A second study, carried out by the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), came to a similar conclusion. 

Lawyers for Fernández de Kirchner last week called for the handwriting studies to be formally incorporated in the casefile, citing experts who determined that "corrections" and "over-writing" had been made to the notebooks that "modified names and dates."

The 'Cuadernos de las Coimas' case centres on the alleged collection of bribes in return for the awarding of public works contracts. It was elevated in 2019 to oral trial but has no date for proceedings to begin.

The probe owes its name to notebooks allegedly kept by Oscar Centeno, the chauffeur of Roberto Baratta, a former government official who worked at the Federal Planning Ministry during Fernández de Kirchner’s time in office.

According to prosecutors, business figures made illegal payments to state officials during the Kirchernite governments in order to win multi-billion-peso contracts for infrastructure projects.

Prosecutors allege Fernández de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015, was at the centre of an illegal bribery ring.

Argentina’s vice-president denies the allegations against her and claim they are part of an organised plot of “judicial and political persecution” designed to soil her reputation and put her behind bars.

Expert findings

It emerged last week that an expert report had concluded that erasures and corrections to the notebook were made by former policeman Jorge Bacigalupo, a friend of Centeno’s.

The new expert examination of three of the eight notebooks attributed to Centeno confirmed that “editing processes, of different types and significance, are observed in the development of the text: additions, deletions, crossed out words and overwritings.”

Two of those notebooks, according to the report, seem to be written in a single time sequence, since the handwriting is “uniform and tidy, with scant variation in the trace of the lettering and ink changes.”

“This regularity leads to the assumption of a consistent writing process, in a few stages,” the report stated.

Judge Martínez de Giorgi ordered the expert examination earlier this year to “determine the linguistic profile of the author, based on a morphosyntactic analysis of the differences observed”.

The work is part of an offshoot in the case in which businessman Armando Loson has alleged that the notebooks, or at least the portions mentioning him, had been tampered with.

The judge agreed to explore if the notebooks and the sections mentioning Loson had indeed been manipulated, with another expert examination pointing to Bacigalupo as the author of these crossed out words and overwritings.

This new assessment also establishes that “subsequent redactions of the original writing are observed in the material aspect of the texts, in the form of crossed out words, corrections, overwritings, deletions and insertions.”

“These redactions, in some cases, follow the same process of the original writing, which is why blank spaces are observed at times completed with another ink, at times incomplete, inverted commas prior to their content or clauses inserted over the text in very limited spaces,” the report adds.

The expert analysis was conducted by court-appointed expert María Valentina Noblía; cooperating experts Alejandro Renato and Julia Zullo (all of them from the University of Buenos Aires or UBA); Salvio Martín Menéndez, an expert also from UBA, the University of Mar del Plata and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), and the technical consultant appointed by the interested party, Marsolaire Andriuska Quintana González.

The document reveals “the potential involvement of third parties in the final edition of the texts.”



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