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Fri Aug 12, 2016, 05:41 PM

Argentine Vice President Gabriela Michetti charged with malfeasance over $75,000 in undeclared funds

Argentine Federal Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán launched an investigation into the source of approximately $75,000 in cash allegedly stolen last November from the house of current Vice President Gabriela Michetti.

The charges against Michetti - specifically "the possible commission of a public offense, subject to the qualification that may ultimately apply" - were filed today before Federal Criminal Court Judge Ariel Lijo.

Bag lady

The theft that gave rise to these charges occurred on election night, November 22, 2015, at Michetti's vintage rowhouse in midtown Buenos Aires. The missing cash - 50,000 dollars and 245,000 pesos ($25,000 at the time) - had been kept in Michetti's bedroom in a number of paper bags.

Police at the time arrested David Cruzado, an officer in the controversial Metropolitan Police created by Michetti's running mate, current President Mauricio Macri, when Macri was Mayor of Buenos Aires. Cruzado, who was part of Michetti's security detail that evening, was convicted and served six months in prison.

Michetti, who claims that $50,000 of this total were a gift from her boyfriend, businessman Juan Martín Tonelli, $20,000 were to be donated to her right-wing think tank SUMA, and $5,000 were meant for home renovations, did not reveal the incident to the public until July 18 - almost eight months after the fact.

The outspoken, 51-year-old Vice President faced a similar controversy on January 29, when she attempted to hide a suitcase full of jewelry on her return from a summit in Ecuador. She claimed the items were "gifts," and despite being barred from accepting valuable gifts while in office, no charges were filed.

Think tanks

Michetti, however, now faces charges related to the possibly illegal origin of the money, as well as for the fact that as a vice presidential candidate and sitting senator she never reported the funds in her requisite annual financial disclosure. Michetti's claim that $20,000 were to be donated to a think tank she herself directs is also incompatible with Argentine law, which forbids cash donations above token amounts to any non-profit organization.

Similar doubts swirl over the $50,000 in cash which Michetti alleged were "lent" to her by Tonelli to help finance her son's post-graduate education in the United States. Tonelli's ad agency received over 2 million pesos (around $250,000 at the time) during Macri's second term as mayor to promote several municipally-sponsored public events as well as in municipal ads published in Tonelli's low-circulation gourmet magazine, Joy.

Suspicions over the true intent of this loan are underscored by the fact that Macri's 2015 campaign received almost three million pesos ($320,000) in cash donations from government contractors, which is illegal in Argentina.

Michetti's explanation, which she released on her Facebook wall rather than in an official statement, was rejected by prominent Buenos Aires forensic attorney Leonardo Martínez Herrero, who was the first to ask the courts to investigate Michetti's SUMA foundation, her financial disclosure statements, and those of Mr. Tonelli. His request was officially granted as part of Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán's investigation.

Congressmen Juan Cabandié and Rodolfo Tailhade of the opposition, center-left FpV applauded the decision. "Most members of the Macri administration also happen to either control or sit on the board of any number of right-wing think tanks or foundations that carry out political activities in parallel with Macri's political party, the PRO," they pointed out. "These non-profits are in effect used to finance PRO operations."

At: https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ambito.com%2F850922-imputan-a-michetti-por-el-origen-del-dinero-robado-de-su-casa

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