January 24, 2018
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

S. Court: Thales case still in play

Justices Elena Highton de Nolasco and Ricardo Lorenzetti
Justices Elena Highton de Nolasco and Ricardo Lorenzetti
Justices Elena Highton de Nolasco and Ricardo Lorenzetti
Justices revoke discontinuance of legal charges against Menem-era officials

The Supreme Court yesterday revoked the discontinuance of legal charges against former officials from Carlos Menem era, who were charged with fraud for selling licences in the radio-electric spectrum to the French enterprise Thales Spectrum, a tender that was later annulled by late former president Néstor Kirchner in 2004.

In their weekly meeting, the members of the highest court issued a one-page resolution in which they expressed their agreement with prosecutor Eduardo Ezequiel Casal, who insisted in reigniting the case that involves Menem-era officials accused of corruption, who were allegedly involved in several irregularities in the bidding process and failed to control the French enterprise. In fact, the enterprise obtained more than 150 percent profitability while the national treasury lost 320 million pesos.

Supreme Court justices revoked the discontinuance granted to Menem-era Communications Secretary Germán Kammerath and to former officials Alejandro Cima, Roberto Catalán, Roberto Uanini, Alberto Gabrielli, Matía Bordieu, Patricio Feune de Colombi and to business leader Jorge Neuss.

The decision also affected Luis Alberto Romero, Hugo Jorge Zothner, Pablo Francisco Arancedo and lawyer Juan Carlos Cassagne, the head of Thales’ local subsidiary.

The Supreme Court’s move comes almost three years after the fourth courtroom of the Criminal Cassation Court agreed to discontinue the case. That resolution was signed by judges Augusto Diez Ojeda and Mariano González Palazzo, whereas judge Gustavo Hornos issued a dissenting vote.

At a later date, the Anti-Corruption Office (OA) recused Diez Ojeda because he had failed to disclose he was related to Neuss.All the men involved were indicted with fraud against the administration for having signed a contract that the state was not able to meet.

Diez Ojeda and González Palazzo considered that there was not enough evidence to prove the fraud. But yesterday the Supreme Court said that the role played by the Cassation Court, the country’s top criminal tribunal, in the examination of the indictment was not justified.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti, Deputy Chief Justice Elena Highton de Nolasco and their colleagues Carlos Fayt and Juan Carlos Maqueda considered that the case had to be reopened, whereas Justices Enrique Petracchi and Eugenio Zaffaroni insisted that the court should not accept the appeal issued by the prosecutor. Justice Carmen Argibay did not sign the resolution.

According to the four justices, the Cassation Court decision had to be quashed as it had been issued after an “arbitrary and partial analysis of the evidence and without taking into consideration the briefs filed by the Auditor-General’s and Comptroller’s offices.”Prosecutor Casal, the officials indicted did not control nor applied any sanction to the enterprise, although it had several failures.

According to the Supreme Court’s Centre of Judicial Information (CIJ), lower courts also agreed that there were bribes in the bidding process, that there was a lack of control from state authorities and that the contract was modified to benefit the licensed enterprise.

—Herald staff with Télam

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