Buenos Aires City’s Justice and Security minister Marcelo D’Alessandro has announced that he will take a leave of absence after a second series of chats allegedly leaked from his phone appeared to show him illegally negotiating with high-ranking public officials. However, he denied that this leave is actually a resignation.
“I need to take a leave of absence, order my affairs, support my family, which has also been the object of these infamies, and prepare a defense for how to dismantle and how to show the falseness of each one of these operations to which they intend to subject us,” D’Alessandro said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
He said he expected to be away from his position for 60-90 days, emphatically denying that he would resign.
On December 29, a series of chats were leaked allegedly showing conversations between D’Alessandro and public figures including former intelligence chief Sylvia Majdalani, Supreme Court Justice Horacio Rosatti’s spokesman Silvio Robles, businessman Marcelo Violante, prosecutor Augusto Troncoso, and a deleted account understood to be the suspended prosecutor Juan Ignacio Bidone.
The chats appear to show improper activity including D’Alessandro negotiating with Robles over where the dispute over federal tax shares would be handled and favoring Violante in public works tenders.
On Monday, Santiago del Estero provincial governor Gerardo Zamora filed a criminal complaint against Robles for influence peddling and breach of duty on the basis of the chats.
D’Alessandro has claimed that the chats are fake and filed a criminal complaint against deputy Rodolfo Tailhade, of the ruling Frente de Todos coalition, for illegal espionage. Tailhade had published links to the leaks and encouraged party activists to “viralize” its contents.
It was the second leak after a series of chats last month, likewise allegedly leaked from D’Alessandro’s phone, appeared to show that he had been on a paid trip with judges and media business moguls to the Patagonian Estancia of British billionaire, Joe Lewis, and subsequently attempted to cover the trip up. D’Alessandro, alongside several judges and officials, is currently under investigation over the trip on charges of receiving handouts.
Buenos Aires City mayor, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, spoke in support of D’Alessandro, describing the hack and leaks as “a new Kirchnerist operation that resorts to manipulating information and illegal espionage to attack, persecute and smear”, and adding: “I trust Marcelo D’Alessandro and value and support the work he has been doing at the head of the ministry.”