“There was no money laundering in Hotesur-Los Sauces because this crime implies the existence of black money that becomes white, that is, money with a legal appearance. The rents that were paid in Hotesur-Los Sauces were always white money, banked, paid with checks or bank transfers“. That is, in essence, the argument with which the defense of Cristina Kirchner rejected the arguments of the prosecution and asked the Chamber of Cassation to confirm what was decided by the Oral Court number 5: the dismissal of all the accused. If there was an illicit association, it is already being investigated in another case, if there was fraud to the State, too. The two crimes are part of the case for the road works in Santa Cruz. “All the money received by Hotesur and Los Sauces was already within the legal financial circuit and it already had the appearance of a legal origin (strictly speaking, it had a legal origin), for which reason it was not only unnecessary and in fact it was impossible to subject it to an asset laundering maneuver”, reports the defense of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The background of the case: rentals
The Hotesur-Los Sauces file, instructed at the time by the late judge Claudio Bonadio, has as its center the properties of the Kirchner family. They were hotels in Santa Cruz and two departments, mainly in Puerto Madero. Since before Néstor Kirchner assumed the position of mayor of Río Gallegos, the couple with Cristina dedicated themselves to buying properties and renting them out.
Bonadio -supported by the chambers of Comodoro Py- argued that those who rented those properties –especially Lázaro Báez, Cristóbal López, Fabián De Sousa– thus paid a kind of bribe for the routes that were granted to them or for other concessions. of the State.
The original response of the defenses was always the same:
*The rents were real and at market prices, therefore they did not include any bribery.
*There is no proportion in the figures. For example, a Báez company had rented two hotels and paid a total of ten million pesos over several years. The total of the routes that the Santa Cruz native built was, at least, 20,000 million pesos of that time, that is, the rents meant 0.05 percent. It has nothing to do with a bribe.
*The contracts were always official, declared in the AFIP, and the payments were made by check or transfer.
The Oral Court decided not to make the trial
In November 2021, Federal Oral Court number 5, made up of Daniel Obligado, Adrián Grünberg and Adriana Palliotti, resolved by divided vote that there was no crime in the Hotesur-Los Sauces case and, therefore, dismissed all the defendants without making the trial. The prosecution also involves Máximo and Florencia, Cristina’s children, for being part of the companies. When Los Sauces was founded, Florencia was nine years old and was not involved in any operation. Even so -demonstrating the political nature of the judicial action- they also prosecuted and seized it at the time of it.
The core of what is being questioned by the Cassation Prosecutor, in charge of Mario Villar, is that the trial must be carried out because there was no novelty that motivated the decision of the judges to affirm that there is no crime.
All defenses -Carlos Beraldi for CFK; Fabián Lértora by Cristóbal López, Fernando Castejón and Sebastián Bagini by Fabián De Sousa and Juan Villanueva by Lázaro Báez- pointed out that there was indeed a decisive novelty: an accounting examination in which it was determined that all rental payments were banked and recorded in the accounting books. It is that, once again, the maneuvers of Bonadio and the political-judicial-media alliance based in Comodoro Py were evidenced: great newspaper headlines, ferocious accusations, but no expertise.
The lawyers pointed out that there are already many cases in which the oral courts decide not to make trials because an element appears that determines that there was no crime. The example that is usually given is that if in a homicide case the victim turns up alive, there is no point in going to trial. Lértora specifically says in his writing: “the expert report also ends by ruling out the existence of two unrecorded payments. It was a mistake of previous experts. This is enough to demonstrate the non-existence of the typical requirement of concealing the origin of the money”.
In the Hotesur-Los Sauces file, the judges of the Oral Court, summarizing, said what the defenses now maintain: “that there is no possible crime of laundering if money that is already white, since it was in a bank, goes to another person. If there were crimes (not money laundering), other causes are being investigated.”
Prosecution charges changes
In the case of Fabián De Sousa and Cristóbal López, the accusation seems preposterous because all they did was rent an apartment and an office from the Kirchner family. Always at market prices or, as shown, slightly cheaper than similar properties. In other words, it was not about monumental sums that could have contained a bribe.
The prosecution was indicating different things as crimes that would have motivated the rents and a kind of gift to the Kirchners. For example, the concessions in casinos, but De Sousa had nothing to do with those concessions and, furthermore, in the existing case there was a dismissal. Later they mentioned the award of oil areas in Vaca Muerta, but also in the respective file there was dismissal since they were tenders. And, finally, the prosecution considered that the laundering implied the crime of gifts, without specifying. “It is clear that they sought to fit the issue in any way. Since the crime did not exist, it could never be duly accredited, ”says the letter from Castejón and Bagini, defenders of De Sousa. In a last presentation, the prosecutors pointed out something astonishing: that there is “a remnant of imputation” that could have to do with the routes of Santa Cruz and they mentioned the Highway case. But there the defendant is Báez.
As for Báez, his lawyer pointed out the obvious: that the alleged illicit association is already being tried in the Highway case, the same as the public work itself. So no one can be tried twice for the same facts. And the rentals – they reiterated – were all blank.
A worldwide controversy
The Hotesur-Los Sauces case raises a question that is being debated in many countries: whether a President has the right to administer his assets during his term and what are the limits.
In Argentine justice, the issue was settled at the time by Judge Julián Ercolini, who later became a spearhead against Peronism. A builder, who had road works with the State, Juan Carlos Relats, rented a hotel from the Kirchners. Ercolini considered that a president’s family had the right to rent, manage, his assets, without limitation.
In the case of Sebastián Piñera in Chile and that of Mauricio Macri, there were obscure movements with trusts that were even said to be blind, that is, the owner did not see what those who were in charge of his assets were investing in. The grotesque thing is that Macri sold his shares in Autopista del Sol after granting an incredible renewal of the Panamericana contract to the company of which he was a part. Shares that were worth three pesos ended up being sold at 83 and the administration was managed from a Liechtenstein company, which included his brother. And he also sold Macair, Macri Air, after giving it new routes.
The current debate in the United States has to do with Trump. The former president is the owner of a huge hotel in Washington, hired as never before by the state. The hotel made a profit like never before. But in addition, Trump had his golf clubs hired for government activities. The most controversial thing is that when he traveled to one of his resorts, the custodians were charged for the rooms at double the usual prices. And not only his guardians, but also those of his children.
Regarding the Kirchners, the prosecution never maintained that the prices were unusual or out of the market. Even with respect to the Alto Patagonia hotel, in Calafate, the contract was before Aerolíneas Argentinas was state-owned and before the hotel was bought by the Kirchners. But also the prices were always those of the market.