BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri was formally charged Wednesday with illegally spying on relatives of sailors whose submarine sank in 2017, one of the most embarrassing incidents of his presidency.
Judge Martín Bava's ruling of “prohibited intelligence actions” can be appealed before any trial would begin.
The judge ordered an embargo of about $1 million of the wealthy ex-president's goods and barred the 62-year-old from leaving the country. There was no arrest order.
The conservative then-president is accused of ordering spying on relatives of the 44 crewmembers of the ARA San Juan, which sank in the South Atlantic. The charges could bring three to 10 years in prison in case of a conviction.-
The judge also ratified charges — but no jail — against Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani, former chief and No. 2 of the Federal Intelligence Agency.
Macri had no immediate comment, but in the past has suggested the judge had political motivations.
The submarine disappeared on Nov. 15, 2017, as it sailed back to its base at the port of Mar del Plata after participating in a training exercise. The wreckage wasn’t found until almost a year later at a depth of 800 meters (2,625 feet), east of Patagonia’s Valdes Peninsula.
An Argentine legislative commission concluded that the sinking was caused by the inefficiency of naval commanders and budget limitations, discarding theories the vessel was attacked or hit by a ship.
That 2019 report also questioned the handling of the crisis by Defense Minister Oscar Aguad and by Macri, who the commission said showed a “low level of involvement with everything related to the tragedy.”
Relatives of the sailors were critical of the government's handling of the sinking and of the search, accusing the government of trying to call it off too soon.