The ring of illegal spying by the government of former Argentine President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) on political leaders, journalists and trade unionists is beginning to have legal consequences. A federal judge in Argentina has ordered the arrest of Susana Martinengo, a former assistant to Macri, who is being charged with being the link between the illegal spying ring and the then president.
On Tuesday, federal judge Federico Villena authorized a mega operation in which 21 people were detained, including a former director of counter-intelligence of the Argentine Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI). The case deals with the deployment of a very extensive illegal political espionage operation, which targeted both Macri's opponents and political allies. Among others, former President Cristina Kirchner; the current head of government of Buenos Aires, Horacio RodrÃguez Larreta; the former president of the Chamber of Deputies Emilio MonzÃ³ (a critic of the former president); and trade unionists Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo appeared to be among the targets.
Martinengo was the director of Presidential Documentation during the Macri administration. On paper she was in charge of reading and answering letters sent to the former president. But according to Judge Villena's theory, her main responsibility was to receive the reports of the illegal spy ring and even to welcome them in person at the Casa Rosada.
Her apprehension comes just days after Villena ordered a search on the home of Macri's former personal assistant and Martinengo's direct boss, Dario Nieto. Sources involved in the investigation explained to LPO that evidence suggests that Martinengo was in charge of receiving the reports of sending them to Nieto or to Macri himself. Analysis of Nieto's cell phone and computer might have provided evidence in this regard.
The raid on Nieto's residence triggered great concern in Macri, who over the weekend mobilized the entire leadership of Cambiemos -his political party- to come to his former assistant's defense. Martinengo's arrest closes the circle on people with close ties to the former president, who according to sources consulted by this outlet are extremely worried about what his collaborators might say.
Villena's order comes in the context of a mega operation in which he also ordered the arrest of 21 other individuals linked to the illegal espionage network.
Among those arrested are former AFI counter-intelligence chief Diego Dalmau Pereyra and former director of special operations Alan Ruiz, bringing the investigation closer to former intelligence agency chiefs Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani.
Ruiz, who was already in detention for illegal espionage against Instituto Patria -the think tank founded by Vice President Cristina FernÃ¡ndez de Kirchner- , was very close to Macri's former Secretary of Security, Patricia Bullrich, and headed the illegal group known in Argentine intelligence circles as "Super Mario Bros".
Former agents Jorge "Turco" SÃ¡ez, Leandro Araque and Facundo Melo were also arrested. The latter was a key member of the group and allegedly had ties to drug trafficker "Verdura" RodrÃguez, who exposed the scandal. Melo was reportedly not found by the agents and voluntarily appeared before the court.
The list of detainees includes spies, police officers and employees of the government and justice system of the city of Buenos Aires with links to former president of Boca Juniors football club Daniel Angelici, a close friend of Macri's and one of his links to the intelligence and judicial communities.
Villena also ordered the arrest of MartÃn Terra, another former AFI agent and former partner of AnalÃa Maiorana, the current wife of Diego Santilli, the deputy head of the Buenos Aires government.
Sources close to the investigation informed LPO that the operation was mapped out in the early hours of the morning to prevent any leaks of information.The judge left the operation in the hands of the Federal Police to avoid interference from the Buenos Aires City Police. Villena will begin the inquiries today and hopes that some of those involved will speak out.
The judge left the operation in the hands of the Federal Police to avoid interference from the Buenos Aires City Police. Villena will begin the investigation today and hopes that some of the accused will cooperate with the authorities.
The judge's main objective is to avoid annulments, which is why before moving forward with the arrests he had carried out the searches and gathered a great deal of evidence. At the same time, he informed the victims, so the case now has about 15 plaintiffs, including former President and current Vice-President Cristina Kirchner, Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio RodrÃguez Larreta, Santilli and Emilio MonzÃ³. In judicial jargon, the judge "goes from the bottom to the top" with the defendants, so it cannot be ruled out that the case will escalate.