Argentina prosecutor opens inquiry into general’s wealth

Milani is the president's pick to head nation's armed forces

General César Milani (far right) with other top members of the armed forces on July 3.
General César Milani (far right) with other top members of the armed forces on July 3.EFE

An Argentinean prosecutor on Monday provisionally charged the country's top army general with alleged illicit enrichment. General César Milani is President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's first choice to head the nation's armed forces.

Milani is already under investigation for human rights abuses he allegedly committed while serving as a junior officer during the so-called Dirty War period from 1976 to 1983 when Argentina was ruled by a military dictatorship.

But the latest accusations concerning Milani's wealth were aired in mid-July when a highly rated Sunday night news program, Periodismo para Todos (Journalism for everyone), reported that the general had bought a property in an exclusive Buenos Aires neighborhood and owned several luxury automobiles. Journalist Jorge Lanata, who hosts the program, said that the general's monthly salary - the equivalent of 2,550 euros - could not pay for such extravagance, and questioned alleged inconsistencies in his personal financial statements for 2010 and 2011.

The program is broadcast on a television network that belongs to the Grupo Clarín, the country's most powerful media company, which has become an arch enemy of the Fernández de Kirchner government.

At least two allegations have surfaced against Milani. A former opponent of the dictatorship has claimed that the general threatened him during an interrogation in 1977, and the family of army officer Alfredo Ledo believes that Milani was behind his unexplained disappearance in 1976.

Milani has denied the allegations.

After a human rights group delivered a letter to Congress concerning Milani's role in the Dirty War, the Senate decided to postpone voting on his nomination until after the legislative elections in October. But Fernández de Kirchner went ahead and ratified his appointment.

Opposition Deputies Fernando Pino Solanas and Elisa Carrió both filed complaints against Milani after the program was broadcast. They were accepted by federal prosecutor Jorge Di Lello who will determine whether there is probable cause to ask a judge to put him on trial.

But observers believe that the judicial investigation will take months.

Solanas also said that there have been allegations concerning human rights abuses committed by Milani before the dictatorship, during the government headed by President María Estela "Isabel" Martínez de Perón, who served from 1974 to 1976.