Former Economy Minister under President Fernándo de La Rúa (1999-2001), Domingo Cavallo, was acquitted yesterday in the case that investigated irregular dealings in a debt swap carried out by the government during the 2001 economic crisis.
The Federal Tribunal number 4 ruled that there is not enough evidence to support the claim that Cavallo favoured a group of seven banks that acted as intermediaries in the debt swap known as ‘megacanje‘. The banks involved were Galicia, Santander, Francés, Credit Suisse First Boston, HSBC, JP Morgan, and Salomon Smith Barney.
The full verdict will be read out on Tuesday 14th October. Prosecutor Fabiana León, who had requested a three-year prison sentence and a ban from holding public office for Cavallo, will study the verdict and decide whether to appeal the ruling.
In his last statement before the court, Cavallo claimed to be “a scapegoat; I had to be responsible for the terrible crisis that the country suffered,” and added that “we were kicked out of the government when we were about to conclude the full debt swap.”
After the ruling was known, the former minister tweeted: “I have been judged and absolved. Simply because I never committed a crime.”
Cavallo was the only person to face trial over the allegations of irregularities in the debt swap, after a 13-year investigation. Charges against other officers involved in the case were dropped as the period allowed by the statute of limitations was exceeded.
The court’s decision was criticised by representatives of the government and the opposition. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said this morning that the 2001 megacanje was “a disastrous operation for the Argentine state and for the Argentine people,” which cost the country a US$55bn increase in its public debt. Opposition deputy Elisa Carrió, who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the ruling meant “the usual impunity for public officers with national or international power.”
Domingo Cavallo was Economy Minister under the De la Rúa administration for nine months, between March and December 2001, and resigned as the crisis deepened and riots erupted on the night of 19th December, hours before De la Rúa. He had also been Economy Minister under former president Carlos Menem between 1991 and 1996, when he created and implemented the Convertibility Plan, which pegged the peso to the US dollar for ten years, and Central Bank president under the dictatorship in 1982.