Citing a lack of evidence, Federal Judge Marcelo Martínez De Giorgi on Tuesday quashed a trial involving Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a host of ex-government officials and the Italo-Argentine multinational Techint. The move relates to a chapter of the so-called “Cuadernos” corruption notebooks trial probing public works graft involving the former president.
The judge grounded his decision on the lack of evidence to incriminate Fernández de Kirchner alongside her co-defendants, Techint executive Luis María Betnaza, former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido and three ex-government officials, Roberto Baratta, José María Olazagasti and Claudio Uberti.
With the move, Martínez de Giorgi overrules the trials ordered on September 17, 2018, by his late colleague Claudio Bonadio, whom he replaced as the trial judge upon the latter’s death last February.
The magistrate considered that a greater diversity of evidence was needed to clarify Techint’s situation with the aim of "determining if the payments effected could be linked to emergency reasons in the context of the nationalisation of their SIDOR company in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,"
Martínez de Giorgi insisted that it was imperative to deepen the investigation since the existing information was insufficient to sustain the trials.
"It would be pertinent to listen to the testimony of the executives, presidents and CEOs of the firms Ternium y Sidor," Martínez De Giorgi continued, names which had been suggested by the federal prosecutor investigating the case, Carlos Stornelli.
This latest ruling does not serve to acquit the vice-president in the core “cuadernos” trial, for which a date has yet to be set. The trial owes its name to the notebooks allegedly made by Baratta’s chauffeur, Oscar Centeno, according to which Centeno’s employer was the recipient of the 2008 bribes allegedly paid by Betnaza.
The latter has admitted to these contributions, while claiming that they were the result of extortion by the Venezuelan government (then under late president Hugo Chávez) in order to repatriate around 200 Argentine employees from the Techint firm Sidor, which had just been expropriated in the Caribbean country.
Techint CEO Paolo Rocca, one of Argentina’s most powerful and wealthy businessmen, was initially a defendant in this trial but his indictment was overruled by the City Federal Appeals Court.