Argentina's Ambassador to Israel and Cyprus Sergio Urribari has resigned his post after being sentenced to eight years in prison for embezzlement dating back to his two-term spell as governor of Entre Ríos Province (2007-2015).
Urribari, who said he will appeal the decision handed down by a court in Paraná, was found guilty on five counts of embezzlement dating back to 2010 to 2015. He was also disqualified from holding public office.
"The first instance ruling is a clear example of arbitrariness, injustice and violation of the rule of law. I will appeal with the conviction that I am right. However, I have made my resignation as ambassador available to the president [Alberto Fernández],” said the diplomat in a post on Twitter yesterday.
Fernández immediately accepted the resignation and has already started drawing up a list of possible replacements for the Israel post.
In a ruling announced late Thursday by Judges José María Chemez, Carolina Castagno and Elvio Garzón., the Paraná court declared that the former Peronist governor was "criminally responsible for the crime of embezzlement," finding him guilty of five crimes including business dealings incompatible with holding public office.
The judges ordered the former governor to serve eight years in prison. The Public Prosecutor’s Office had requested a 12-year sentence.
According to prosecutors, Urribani engaged in illegal practices involving around US$9 million of provincial funds set aside for official advertising and other expenses. The court ruled that the ex-governor had directed the contracting of advertising by the provincial state for private purposes.
According to the prosecution, during Urribari's term in office, provincial officials "confused personal interests with public office. This as a modus operandi, the confusion between public and private activity is not casual, it is intentional."
Defending himself before the court on March 22, the former governor said he was "the object of a legal and media construction" and affirmed that the trial was reached "by dint of arbitrariness and outrages."
Eleven other people also stood trial in the case, including former officials, family members and alleged front men, of whom seven received various reduced sentences and four were acquitted.
Former provincial ministers of Culture and Communication, Pedro Báez, and of Tourism, Hugo Marsó, and legislature ex-official Juan Pablo Aguilera, among others, were among those convicted.