December 8, 2013
Alak supports Domestic Trade SecretaryThursday, September 19, 2013
Gov’t stands up for indicted Moreno
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration came out in full support of Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno yesterday, a day after a judge charged the government with abuse of power in what was his first formal prosecution for his controversial effort to fine economists who publish independent inflation data.
The strong support, which came from Justice Minister Julio Alak yesterday, came at a time when there were rumours that Moreno — one of the most controversial members of the administration — could be leaving the government.
Alak boldly claimed that Moreno’s “moral honesty is undisputed among all Argentines and even abroad,” slamming Judge Claudio Bonadío’s move against the secretary for “abuse of authority” as “irregular and rushed.”
Bonadío indicted the secretary for fining a think tank that published inflation statistics that differed from those released by the INDEC national statistics bureau. The fines were overturned, but Moreno subsequently sought their enforcement through the Supreme Court, while Finosport think tank head and former Finance Secretary Jorge Todesca filed a suit against the official.
The Domestic Trade secretary, along with lower ranking secretariat officials Fernando Carro and Adalberto Rotella will appeal against Bonadío’s decision, which also includes a 50,000-peso lien on Moreno’s assets.
“Moreno is one of the faces that defend the interests of Argentines against foreign creditors and has fought a permanent titanic war against economic powers,” Alak said, alluding to a general defence of the government’s contested inflation statistics, which it claims are more representative than the consensus of 20 to 25 percent from most private entities.
Moreno’s aggressive approach, controversial policies, including import restrictions and supermarket price-freeze, and shaky economic results fed speculation in recent weeks that the official was on his way out.
On national Industry Day, business leaders reported that Moreno had complained his work was not adequately appreciated by the rest of the Kirchnerite administration.
Avoiding arguably an electorally detrimental episode, the government thus publicly ratified its support for Moreno.
“We consider the ruling irregular, because fair trial procedures have been violated, for instance that there is res judicata on the matter of fining the consultancies, because another federal judge, Julián Ercolini, investigated in November 2012 whether a crime had been committed,” Alak continued, speaking to news channel C5N.
Bonadío’s ruling is based on Article 248 of the Penal Code and is punishable with a “prison sentence of between a month and a year along with special suspension for double time.”
The indictment turned the tables on Moreno, who in a separate case last week asked a judge to file charges against several private economists for “speculation,” accusing them of trying to enrich their clients by releasing false information.
Supreme Court overlap?
“What would happen if tomorrow the Supreme Court rules that the fines were valid?” Alak asked, questioning how such a development would affect a “judicial resolution that indicted an official for a valid action.”
The Justice ministry head thus considered that the “ruling was rushed,” dismissing notions that Moreno had sought to “silence Finosport” with such fines, thereby “exceeding the powers available to him.”
A long legal battle
The legal battle between Moreno and private consulting firms began in 2011 when the Trade Loyalty department of the Consumer Defence Secretariat sent reports to the firms to ask about the methodology they used to collect information used to report inflation. This led to fines of 500,000 pesos against 12 firms.
The fines had already been revoked by a court that said the consultancies had not broken the law.
Herald with DyN, Télam