The Estancia El Carmen covers 2,500 hectares and was owned by Carlos Saavedra Lamas, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1936 for having inspired an anti-war agreement as Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship. The historic property located in the rural area of the San Mariano commune had been acquired in 1857 by Mariano Saavedra, son of the president of the First Junta Cornelio Saavedra, who in 1863 founded the estancia El Carmen, in honor of his wife Carmen Zabaleta.
This was how generations passed until 2011 when Carlos Roque Saavedra, son of Carlos Saavedra Lamas, left his stay with the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Vida Silvestre by will to contribute to the preservation of the country’s natural heritage. The instructions were that it had to be sold and that money had to be given to the foundation. This could not be accomplished because a former Saavedra employee lived with his family in the place.
It has been eight years since the dispute over the property has been settled in court. In 2014 it was under the orbit of the Esperanza Prosecutor’s Office, head of the Las Colonias department, and then it was referred to the Complex Crimes Unit of Santa Fe. Prosecutor Bárbara Ilera and her partner María Laura Urquiza were in charge of the investigation by the alleged crimes of usurpation, cattle rustling, procedural fraud and money laundering. On November 30, they requested raids that the personnel of the Investigative Agency (OI – Judicial Police) carried out in homes in the towns of San Mariano, Santo Tomé and San Carlos, all of the Las Colonias department.
After the results of the analysis of the seized documentation, this Thursday the prosecutors charged two lawyers from Santa Fe and three members of a family of rural laborers for “integrating an illicit association designed to give legal appearance to the illegitimate occupation of the El Carmen ranch.”
Ilera and Urquiza accused lawyer Raúl Antonio Freyre Iturraspe (48) and María del Corazón de Jesús Iturraspe Freyre (47), as those who commanded the illicit association. The lawyer was charged as boss and his colleague as an organizer. Meanwhile, Hugo Aníbal Gómez (54) and Claudia Alejandra Olmos (45), and their son José María (19) blamed them for being members of this association.
At the hearing, the prosecutor Ilera explained that “the illicit association has been operating in a stable manner since July 2013” and clarified that “the three people charged as members of the organization illegally occupy and obtain economic income from the ranch El Carmen – 2,500 hectares – through deception, abuse of trust and violence ”.
For the official of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPA), the lawyer and his colleague were the ones who facilitated this usurpation through the systematic presentation of legal actions that supported the possession of the property with false data that even misled provincial judges. For the Prosecutor’s Office, it all began when the rural worker initiated, through the lawyer, a procedure in which he maintained that he had rights over the stay, since he had resided in it for more than 20 years.
“In July 2014, a magistrate was deceived and issued a precautionary measure, with which the gang sought to justify the illegal occupation and be empowered to persist in the usurpation,” stressed the prosecutor, who added that “in his resolution, the judge he proposed that a bond be set up, which was with assets owned by the investigated lawyer ”.
Farm and livestock
For the Prosecutor’s Office, the illegal occupation of the property of the members of the illicit association was one of the crimes that they committed and they added to the rental of parcels of the stay to third parties for agricultural exploitation and cattle hunting.
Regarding the latter, Ilera explained that “the organization illegitimately seized 1,387 head of cattle that had trademarks and registered signs that were altered and suppressed.” The prosecutor said that before taking over the property, the rural laborer was in charge of raising and caring for the animals while the wife had been designated between November 2015 and May 2018 as the judicial custodian of seized cattle, so that violated your custody duty.
Ilera added that “at the end of 2019, the lawyer investigated as head and the three members of the illicit association constituted an administration trust for the use, enjoyment and fruits of the fractions of the rural establishment”, and indicated that “they designated as beneficiaries to the lawyer, and to the man and his partner ”.
The prosecutor clarified that “the lawyer’s participation in the illicit association lasted until June 2018, which is why she was not part of the trust.”
Threats with firearms
In these eight years, not everything was settled in the Justice, there were also violent situations. In this context, the prosecutor explained that these incidents occurred when the representatives of the Fundación Vida Silvestre and the executor approached the farm.
“The accused man and other people who have not yet been identified prevented the executor from doing his job, as they broke the padlocks on the gates; They chased away the cattle that had to be counted and vaccinated with shots into the air; and they intimidated – also with firearms – workers who responded to the representatives of the estate ”.
Also, “they threatened to shoot weapons in the direction of four members of the NGO who were photographing the property,” he said.
Members and offenses
The MPA official referred to the legal qualifications attributed to the five investigated persons and specified that in addition to the role attributed to each one in the illicit association, they were all attributed as co-authors of repeated scams. “The lawyer, the lawyer and two of the illegal occupants of the ranch were also charged with co-responsibility for the crimes of usurpation; fraud due to stelioniato (deception in the contracts) and aggravated cattle rustling ”.
For his part, he stressed that the investigated lawyer was also attributed the crime of “use of a false private document.”
Ilera added that the man and woman who occupy the property were charged with the crime of “improper possession of a firearm for civil use and for conditional civil use.” Finally, it concluded that “the man was also attributed the responsibility of” qualified threats, while the woman was responsible for the crime of unfaithful depositary. “
The Prosecutor’s Office clarified that the crimes charged to the five members of the illicit association may be even greater as well as the responsibilities may be modified due to the fact that the preparatory criminal investigation continues.
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Two lawyers and three rural laborers are indicted for illegally occupying the residence of a Nobel laureate