Justice Minister Martín Soria ordered a six-month takeover of presidential candidate Patricia Bullrich’s research institute, contending that it is being illegally used to fund her political campaign. The NGO, the National Institute of Strategic Studies on Security (IEES, by its Spanish acronym) was founded in 2016 and is presided over by Bullrich.
The General Judicial Inspection Board (IGJ by its Spanish acronym) found “irregularities and the development of actions unrelated to the corporate purpose for which it was authorized to work,” according to a communiqué released today.
The takeover is an exhaustive external audit known in Spanish as an intervención (intervention), where the company or organization’s daily activity is scrutinized on top of a judicial investigation. The IEES’s intervention was ordered via a civil court ruling because it allegedly broke regulations regarding civil associations, and could potentially imply a violation of law 26215, which regulates the financing of political parties.
In a tweet, Bullrich accused Economy Minister and presidential candidate Sergio Massa of “attacking her” through the Justice Minister.
“I want to share with the people that we should be strong because the attacks will continue in the coming weeks,” she tweeted. “They seek to draw attention away from their disastrous management and the misery generated by Kirchnerism.”
Soria answered her on the same social media platform, saying that the IGJ works under the Justice Ministry. “Leave the campaign aside and start explaining the illegal fundraising system you set up for your political party long before you were a candidate!!,” he tweeted.
A source close to Bullrich refused to comment directly on why Massa was accused of being behind the decision and whether or not the institute was in fact used to fundraise for her campaign.
According to the IGJ, the IEES finances “activities related to the political campaign, in clear contradiction with the authorized corporate purpose.” According to the government’s agency, “accounting and administrative irregularities were also detected” as it verified an “exponential growth” of its income and expenditure.
For example, the IGJ found that, in 2022, the IEES’s income was “closely related” to Bullrich’s campaign, paying for trips to Salta province and Miami where she did political tours for her party, the PRO. The IEES also paid for political consultants and election specialists, according to the IGJ.
“In a few months, [the IEES] went from having no funds to cover current expenses to raising more than AR$ 90 million (US$324,992 at the official rate, US$184,181 at the MEP exchange rate),” they stated.
The IEES also made headlines in May after a former secretary of Juntos por el Cambio (JxC) deputy Gerardo Milman testified that her phone was wiped at the institute’s headquarters. Milman —a member of the IEES— worked as Bullrich’s Chief of Campaign until December last year, when he left the role amid controversy over his alleged comments about the assassination bid on Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner before it took place.
Former President Mauricio Macri and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta tweeted in support of Bullrich, and accusing the government of leading a “smear campaign” against her. “Using the State to persecute opponents is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. All my support to Patricia Bullrich,” Larreta tweeted.
—with information from Télam