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Latin America

Argentinean police contaminated evidence at dead prosecutor’s home

Video shows authorities wiping clean the gun Alberto Nisman reportedly used to kill himself

Carlos E. Cué
An image from the police video recorded at Nisman's home.
An image from the police video recorded at Nisman's home.El trecetv

A police video released to the public on Sunday night shows how investigators may have tampered with evidence at the scene of Argentinean federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death, the details of which continue to remain an enigma for many nearly five months later.

TV journalist Jorge Lanata broadcast the unedited police video taken at the crime scene on his popular news program Periodismo para todos (Journalism for everyone). The recording demonstrates how a series of investigative errors were committed by authorities when they arrived at the prosecutor’s apartment on January 18.

The video shows a series of errors committed by officials when they arrived at the prosecutor’s home

The broadcast has only fueled more speculation over the mysterious death of 51-year-old Nisman, who was found with a gunshot wound to his head on his bathroom floor the day before he was scheduled to testify before Congress over cover-up charges he had recently filed against President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

After a string of appeals, the Federal Criminal Cassation Court last month decided to dismiss Nisman’s original complaint against the president and other government officials whom he accused of covering up an attack on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, which left 85 people dead.

Lanata said he had the entire four-hour video in his possession but only showed parts of the recording that police took at Nisman’s Le Parc Tower apartment in Buenos Aires’ Puerto Madero neighborhood.

According to Lanata, authorities on the scene apparently ruined a good part of the investigation in they way they handled the evidence, including searching for DNA samples. For example, one extract shows the cartridge clip of the gun to be completely clean, but the firearm itself stained with blood.

One part shows the gun’s cartridge clip to be completely clean, but the firearm itself stained with blood

This reportedly prevented forensic experts from lifting fingerprints from the gun, which may have belonged to people other than Nisman, experts on the show said. Forensic investigators did not even find DNA evidence linking the firearm to Diego Lagomarsino, a computer expert and friend of Nisman, who has admitted giving him the gun for his own protection the day before the prosecutor’s body was found.

And while the clip was clean when authorities arrived, one investigator is seen handling and staining it with blood from his rubber gloves. He is also shown picking up bullet shells and putting them in the bidet, further altering the original crime scene.

Nisman’s former wife, Sandra Arroyo, who is a judge, has maintained that her ex-husband did not commit suicide but was murdered in his own apartment.

No official ruling has been made in Nisman’s death but an investigating prosecutor, Viviana Fein, has said that so far all the evidence points to suicide.

But many, like Arroyo, remain unconvinced.

Nisman cut short his vacation in Spain in mid-January to file cover-up charges against Fernández de Kirchner, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, and other officials for allegedly trying to derail his investigation into the 1994 terrorist bombing.

More information
Argentinean court closes Nisman’s case against Kirchner for good
Argentina leader accused of cover-up over 1994 Jewish center bombing
Cover-up complaint against President Kirchner suffers major blow
Police raid home of computer expert who loaned gun to dead prosecutor

He had claimed that the president was trying to seek a grain-for-oil deal with Iran and in exchange she had agreed to drop charges against high-level Iranian officials charged with complicity in the attack.

The government has repeatedly denied this allegation, and Nisman’s reputation has come under question from many sectors.

Prosecutor Fein can be seen leading the investigation throughout the video, and the voice of Sergio Berni, the president’s chief of state security – whose arrival at the scene before the forensic team has also evoked a whirlwind of speculation – can also occasionally be heard in the background. At one point, he tells Fein to go to the bathroom because Nisman may be suffering when in fact the prosecutor had been dead for at least 12 hours.

Authorities are also seen wiping the bloody firearm with toilet paper. This is followed by a sudden cutoff in the recording – which should not have occurred – when images may have shown exactly how investigators cleaned the weapon.

The bathroom is shown to be full of investigators stepping on blood, including Fein, who may have added her own prints at the scene.

One official can be heard telling her: “Watch out where you are stepping.”

“I have never had any doubt that Nisman was murdered,” said Lanata on his show. “But we may perhaps never know this because the crime scene was tampered with.”

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