RENO — A Nevada judge has ordered that redacted testimony regarding allegedly embezzled Argentina government funds be unsealed.
Argentina creditors have been seeking discovery of assets that they believe could have been laundered through shell corporations in Nevada by businesspeople with close ties to President Cristina Kirchner’s family.
Patricia Amunategui, an employee of a company that assisted in the formation of the shell corporations in question, gave a deposition under an agreement that it would remain confidential. Argentine investigative journalist Jorge Lanata asked that Amunategui’s testimony be unsealed. US Federal District Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach granted Lanata’s motion in part, with certain protections for Amunategui’s private information. Ferenbach’s ruling acknowledged Amunategui’s privacy concerns, but said that they were outweighed by the public’s interests, which involve “the health of the global
bond market, the court’s constitutional role in finalizing cases and controversies, and credible allegations of fraud involving hundreds of Nevada corporations and a sovereign nation.”
Ferenbach ordered that Lanata’s attorney prepare a version of the deposition that excludes personal information about Amunategui by 25 February. Attorneys for Lanata and Amunategui should meet about the redacted testimony and either file it by 4 March or file a statement detailing their disagreement by 5 March. Oral arguments will be held on 9 March if any disagreement cannot be resolved.
“This ruling could increase pressure on President Kirchner and her administration at what is already a difficult moment politically. The confrontation between Argentina’s executive and judicial branches has intensified since the Iranian cover up allegations against President Kirchner brought by prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January, Nisman’s subsequent death and the extension of corruption proceedings against Vice President Amado Boudou,” says Credit Suisse analyst Casey Reckman. “Depending on the contents of Amunategui’s deposition, the Nevada proceedings could represent another front for corruption allegations that attract domestic attention as well. We would expect investors to interpret Ferenbach’s order positively as unsealing this testimony could further injure the government’s credibility and prospects for influencing the next administration. That said, we do not think that this particular development increases the likelihood that holdouts will succeed in attaching assets since the testimony was already known to Ferenbach and the parties to the case.”