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Cablegate: Argentina: Prosecutor General Seeks to Deepen Law


DE RUEHBU #0977/01 2381638
R 261638Z AUG 09


G/TIP for Stephanie Kronenburg and Marisa Ferri


E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a productive meeting with CDA on August 20,
Argentine Prosecutor General Esteban Righi expressed interest in
expanding and deepening bilateral law enforcement cooperation on a
wide range of areas including extradition, human trafficking, money
laundering, terrorism finance and corruption. The Charge stressed
the USG's commitment to working in collaboration with the Argentine
government in these areas as well as terrorism and drug trafficking.
He invited the Prosecutor General's (PG) office to participate in
future USG training aimed at developing law enforcement and
prosecutorial capacity to combat complex and organized crime. An
amiable interlocutor with a professional demeanor, Righi appeared
genuinely interested in working with us to deepen bilateral law
enforcement cooperation. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Prosecutor General Righi was joined in his office by
Secretary for Institutional Coordination Dr. Adrian Marchisio,
Director for Criminal Policy Mary Beloff, and Marcelo Colombo,
Director for the Specialized Unit to Investigate Kidnapping,
Extortion and Trafficking in Persons Crimes (UFASE). The CDA was
accompanied by A/Polcouns Heidi Gomez (notetaker).

PG Proposes Reforms to Adopt Inquisitorial System
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. (SBU) Righi began by noting that the Prosecutor General's office
(PG) had previously worked with the U.S. Embassy on extradition
requests, intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement, and oral
advocacy training. He asserted that a year earlier, he had proposed
to then-Minister of Justice Anibal Fernandez reforms to Argentina's
criminal procedural code that would implement the 1994
constitutional mandate to transition the country's judicial system
from the inquisitive to the accusatorial system. Righi indicated
that he had raised the proposal with new Justice Minister Julio Alak
and expressed hope that Alak would not only support reform but also
request additional resources for implementation. In making a case
for greater funding, he said that it would be useful to know what
percentage of the U.S. budget is allocated to the Attorney General's

Plea Bargaining and Extradition Issues

4. (SBU) Righi also expressed interest in learning from the U.S.
experience with plea bargaining. Introducing such a system in
Argentina could help reduce the judicial system's backlog of
criminal cases, he said. He acknowledged, however, that the
benefits of such reforms would have to be carefully explained, since
the Argentine public might otherwise view plea bargaining as a means
to circumvent justice. He also indicated that more Argentine
prosecutors needed to strengthen their understanding of U.S.
requirements for extradition requests. The Charge suggested that it
would be beneficial for the Embassy and the PG's office to explore
ways to improve the information-sharing process in extradition cases
to speed up communications. Righi said that he was open to looking
at options to do so.


5. (SBU) Righi also expressed interest in learning U.S. best
practices in prosecuting trafficking in persons (TIP) crimes and
protecting trafficking victims. He said that passage of anti-TIP
legislation in 2007 had given prosecutors a new tool to go after
trafficking rings. The CDA stated that the USG is deeply committed
to working with the GOA on fighting TIP and noted that Argentina's
anti-TIP law was a notable step forward. He stressed that TIP was a
global problem that all countries, including the United States,
face. He praised the PG's specialized Kidnapping, Extortion, and
TIP unit (UFASE) for its excellent and high-profile work
investigating TIP cases around the country and forwarding a number
of cases to the courts for further judicial investigation and
prosecution. The CDA also relayed Washington interest in seeing
these investigations result in convictions, and offered USG
assistance in strengthening the PG's capacity to prosecute such

6. (SBU) The Charge invited UFASE to participate in future anti-TIP
training, including an upcoming September seminar the Embassy is
funding through a local NGO partner "Unidos por la Justicia." He
reiterated the Embassy's invitation to Righi to attend the opening
ceremony of the event. Righi welcomed the opportunity for enhanced
cooperation and training in this area, but indicated that he
preferred working directly with the USG on a bilateral basis at
first. "Once an institutional working relationship in this area is
established, we can explore the possibility of working with an NGO,"
he explained. A/Polcouns suggested that working level officials
attend, a possibility Righi said he would consider. (Note: Unidos
representatives subsequently told us that an UFASE prosecutor has
agreed to serve as a trainer for the program.)

7. (U) Note: On August 24, Righi signed a resolution instructing
federal prosecutors to seek the closure of brothels operating with a
license for commercial activities, such as pubs or discos. The
resolution also instructs prosecutors to ask investigative judges to
authorize at the initial stage of an investigation the seizure of
these venues to be used as property bond until the case is decided
by the courts. Righi also ordered prosecutors to identify and press
charges against officials that may have participated or covered up
TIP crimes. According to pro-government daily "Pagina 12," which
arguably has the best press coverage of TIP issues, UFASE has
discovered that several municipalities have local ordinances that
regulate prostitution, in open violation of federal law. To address
this, Righi has also urged Justice Minister Alak and Interior
Minister Randazzo to ensure that provincial and municipal
legislation complies with national law and Argentina's international
obligations to abolish "houses of tolerance" that engage in
commercial sexual exploitation.

8. (SBU) The Charge noted that the U.S. Embassy's Office of the
Legal Attache had worked very closely with the PG's Specialized Unit
charged with exclusively investigating the 1994 terrorist bombing on
the Argentine-Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA). He asked whether
the GOA had considered transitioning the unit into a
counter-terrorism unit with broader investigative authority. Righi
said that the GOA would have to think about this possibility, and
said that if the GOA were to have a specialized Counterterrorism
unit, it would have to create a new office. To do otherwise would
divert resources from the AMIA investigation, he stated.

Financial Crimes

9. (SBU) Turning to the issue of financial crimes, the CDA noted
that the Embassy's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Attache
and Drug Enforcement Administration office have worked to assist the
GOA in strengthening its Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Finance
regime. He noted that ICE provided training in July 2009 to
Argentine law enforcement agencies including Gendarmeria,
Prefectura, Federal Police, and Customs on how to investigate money
laundering, bulk cash smuggling, and terrorist finance cases. He
invited the PG's office to participate in future training courses as
participants and presenters. Righi welcomed the opportunity for
training in these areas, noting that federal prosecutors have had
difficulties in investigating such cases. He noted that prosecutors
need to learn what is money laundering and what is not. He pointed
out that Argentina's legal framework does not define what
constitutes cover-up in money laundering crimes. He added that the
GOA needed to develop protocols on how to investigate complex crimes
such as money laundering, terrorism finance, TIP, and corruption.

10. (SBU) A/PolCouns noted ICE's interest in offering support for
any GOA initiative to create an integrated Money Laundering
taskforce that would include members of the PG's office, Customs,
Gendarmeria, and National Police. Righi said the proposal was
interesting, but indicated that prosecutors have a greater role in
investigating money laundering cases, claiming that the federal
security forces did not really follow these kinds of cases.


11. (SBU) On IPR, A/Polcouns noted Embassy efforts to produce an IPR
investigative manual, which was written entirely by Argentine

judicial and law enforcement officials. Secretary Marchisio noted
that the PG's office was currently evaluating the manual for
possible use by federal prosecutors, adding that it was "quite

Speaker Program

12. (SBU) A/PolCouns invited the PG's office to participate in two

speaker programs this fall on the topics of juvenile delinquency and
Magistrate Judges. She also indicated that through the Speaker
program the Embassy could bring U.S. legal experts on topics of
interest to the PG's office. Beloff indicated her interest in the
program and promised to follow up with concrete proposals. She also
indicated that she would participate in the Embassy's fall program
and encourage federal prosecutors to attend.

The Future of Specialized Investigative Units

13. (SBU) Righi told the Charge that his office is now working to
strengthen the PG's ten Specialized Investigative Units by giving
them the authority to follow up on cases they initiated and
transferred to the courts for further investigation. (Note: At
present, specialized investigative units conduct preliminary
investigations in their area of expertise under the guidance and
order of an investigative judge. If these specialized units develop
sufficient evidence to proceed with a formal investigation, they
must then transfer the case to a federal investigating judge with
the appropriate jurisdiction. Although judges may continue to rely
on the specialized units for technical assistance during the
investigation, they rarely do.)

Bio Note

14. (SBU) President Nestor Kirchner appointed Esteban Righi as
General Prosecutor of the Republic of Argentina in 2004. When
Kirchner's wife Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner4s (CFK) was elected
President in 2007, she opted to keep Righi in the same position.
Argentina's Constitution establishes a system in which the General
Prosecutor is both the chief of all prosecutors in the national
(i.e., Buenos Aires city) justice system and is head of all federal
prosecutors who intervene in Supreme Court cases. Nevertheless,
Righi insists that "it is a myth" that he is chief of all federal
prosecutors since they are independent and do not report to him.

15. (SBU) Mr. Righi was born in Resistencia, in the province of
Chaco, on September 4, 1938. A lawyer by training, he earned his
Doctorate in Criminal Law and Criminology from the University of
Buenos Aires. He is a long-time Peronist, with strong links to the
party's left flank. From May to July 1973, Righi served as Minister
of the Interior in the transitional Peronist government of Hector
Campora. During this time, he was the author of a controversial
decree liberating more than 300 prisoners who had been accused of
perpetrating acts of domestic terrorism. Prior to and during the
1976-83 military dictatorship, Righi lived in exile in Mexico with
his family for ten years. (During that period, as he recounted to
the CDA, he turned to American football after becoming disenchanted
with the "poor quality" of Mexican soccer, eventually becoming an
avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan.) He returned to Argentina when it
returned to democracy in 1983. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Righi
had his own law firm (Estudio Righi) where he and his partners
reportedly represented a number of current government officials
accused of corruption.


16. (SBU) An amiable interlocutor with a professional demeanor,
Righi appeared genuinely interested in working with us and learning
from USG best practices on a wide range of issues. (He requested the
meeting.) Post will actively explore additional opportunities to
work with the PG's office to offer experts and programs that can
build its prosecutorial capacity to investigate and prosecute
organized and complex crime.


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