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Argentina5 April 2007

Ordinary break-in doubted in theft of sensitive files from magazine’s editor home

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today about the break-in on 27 March at the Buenos Aires home of Carlos Russo, the editor of the weekly Perfil, saying it gave little credence to the theory that it was an ordinary robbery as the burglars took files implicating senior officials in corruption.

“Russo recently investigated and published articles on an extremely sensitive corruption case,” the press freedom organisation said. “Would ordinary burglars have taken the trouble to take a journalist’s files and notes along with the usual spoils? Everything in Russo’s account seems to indicate the robbery was linked to his work as a journalist and that it was disguised as a ordinary break-in.”

Hailing Russo’s courage, Reporters Without Borders added: “It would therefore be logical for the investigation into this break-in to be incorporated into the investigation into the ‘Skanska’ case, the one Russo was working on.”

Russo, his wife and seven-year-old daughter were all present when the break-in by three armed men took place. After locking their victims in a bedroom, the intruders went through all his personal effects, taking his notebook and all his files on the “Skanska” corruption case involving senior government officials.

Russo thinks the intruders waited until his wife had come home before entering. As well as his notes, they took 68 dollars, a few jewels, a DVD player, two mobile phones and a pocket computer, before finally making off in his car.

The Swedish company Skanska has been accused of tax evasion and bribery in order to get a contract for the Gasoducto Norte pipeline. It has also reportedly been investigated for allegedly falsifying invoices in order to disguise hidden commissions and unpaid debts. The case supposedly implicates senior officials in the federal planning ministry. The ministry is headed by Julio De Vido, who is said to be a close associate of President Néstor Kirchner.

Russo told Reporters Without Borders: “It could just be an ordinary robbery. But it is also possible that it was threat or a message to say, ‘We can come back to your home whenever we like.’ I do not know yet.” In the 2 April issue of Perfil, Russo wrote: “The incident elicited a paradoxical reaction in me. It has spurred me to continue my investigation into the Skanska case with even more enthusiasm.”

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