MONTEVIDEO ( Associated Press) – Two months after Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Poe launched an investigation into fake passports against his former security chief, new information leaked to the press revealed a network of espionage and blackmail against opposition politicians.
On Tuesday, the secretary of the Presidency of Uruguay, Álvaro Delgado, and the deputy secretary, Rodrigo Ferras, testified in a passport falsification case in which the main defendant is Alejandro Estesiano, President Luis Lacalle Poe’s former chief of security.
In parallel, his other illegal businesses came to light, leading to police officers in a case of both business and political espionage, including former Uruguayan soldiers.
Among other equipment analyzed by prosecutor Gabriella Fossati in the passport case, 51 GB of Lacalle’s bodyguard’s phone contained information on the espionage network. But the prosecutor’s office has not opened an investigation into a separate folder for that case.
More than 1,300 WhatsApp messages accessed 10 days ago by local newspaper La Diaria outline a scandal that implicates Uruguayan government officials and calls into question the figure of President Lacalle.
The unfolding plot involved the alleged phone tapping of individuals with spyware from the Ministry of the Interior and information traffic from high-ranking officials in that portfolio, now accused, to those who illegally commercialized it. Interior Minister Luis Alberto Haber denied this in the Senate Security Commission.
Estesiano sold state intelligence services to an Argentine soybean businessman, who accessed data on geo-referenced coordinates, truck license plates and telephone numbers on shipments of wheat and corn.
Although the authorities rejected it, Estesiano offered this businessman the services of El Guardian, a spyware used by the police, technically with the authorization of justice. He charged for this.
Both Estesiano and the company that created the software denied that the former head of presidential security had access to the software. The former presidential bodyguard also admitted that he was “lying” to his clients about using “spying” software. The prosecutor in the case even mentioned that it could be Estéciano’s “pride”.
Vertical Skies Co., a security consultancy run by several former Uruguayan soldiers based in Miami, Buenos Aires and Montevideo, accessed these services, the newspaper that published Tuesday accessed the material under investigation. The company asked Estesiano for personal information on Senators Mario Bergara and Charles Carrera, both opposition members of Broad Front.
The objective was to intimidate them, according to the messages that make up the tax file, until they withdrew a criminal complaint that the senators had filed to monopolize the port of Montevideo, granting the operator Ketoen Natty the Port of Decree until the year 2081. Through .
“The information I want (sic) is all personal. They want to tie them up so they can withdraw the complaint,” company manager and former military officer Marcelo Acuña wrote to Estesiano Chat. “I want all the personal data and links,” he asked in March.
In early August, Esteciano received a wire transfer — the amount of which has not been made public in the messages — from Western Union to Boca Raton, Florida, where the company is headquartered. The businessmen also requested that he arrange a meeting with Lacalle for the purchase of maritime patrol vessels for the Uruguayan Navy, as well as information about the tender. He consulted them about the Air Force’s interest in purchasing the aircraft.
The president of the Broad Front, Fernando Pereira, appeared before the press on Tuesday accompanied by two spy senators to demand accountability from the Ministry of the Interior. Senator Charles Carrera described the operation as “mafia in nature”. “If we, who have special status, were subjected, well, all Uruguayans have to worry,” he warned.
After the hearing with Prosecutor Fossatti, Álvaro Delgado, the Secretary of the Presidency, refused to answer questions from the press. But he said it would be “very serious” if the tax investigation confirms what was published.
Estesiano is in prison while he is on trial for allegedly being part of a criminal syndicate that managed apocryphal birth certificates for Russian citizens so they could access Uruguayan passports.
Prior to being nominated by Lacalle Poe, Estesiano already had over twenty police notes and a criminal record for fraud. On 26 September, after returning from a trip to Costa Rica with the president and his family, he was detained at the presidential residence, where his office was located.
Because of the passport, in addition to Estesiano, a Russian national who processed these forgeries from Facebook, but also for luxury accommodations and airport transfers, Lacalle’s former bodyguard suggested, as stated in the leaked chats. Use the official Cars Speakers designation.
A Uruguayan notary, his wife, and Stefano Di Conza, Uruguay’s former consul in Moscow, are also imprisoned. In addition, Gonzalo Vazquez, the Director of Criminal Identification, was removed from his position. The other 10 presidential security guards have been transferred to other public offices since Estéciano’s capture.
Several police commanders are also being investigated by the prosecutor in the passport case. These include Héctor Ferreira, deputy director of the National Police, and Henri de León, director of the inspection of security companies.