On July 4, the Buenos Aires Times reported that Fabián Gutiérrez, a wealthy Argentinian businessman and former private secretary to former Argentinian presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was found murdered in the city of El Calafate in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Gutiérrez was last seen on July 2 in Santa Cruz province in southern Argentina.
On July 3, the search for Gutiérrez began in earnest after a complaint from his mother. That same day, reports in the local Argentinian press said that Gutiérrez’s phone had been found at a construction site and that his vehicle had been discovered, with smashed windows and bloodstains. Investigating Judge Carlos Navarte said that after the first individual who was questioned admitted to the murder and told police that the body could be found at a house in El Calafate, he then ordered a raid on the house.
That same day, police arrived at the house, which was owned by one of four people now accused of participation in the murder. When police arrived at the house, they found Gutiérrez’s body reportedly buried, tied up, and covered with a sheet, and showing signs of having been beaten and a deep stab wound. They also determined that the house had been broken into, and found a bloody knife on the premises, and that a television, a music system, and other high-value items were reported as missing. Judge Navarte, who visited the house on the night of July 3, told a reporter that he had the impression that there had been violence in the house.
As of July 4, four men reportedly had already been charged and detained in connection with Gutiérrez’s murder, according to Judge Navarte. Judge Navarte opined that the presumed motive was theft or extortion, and that a “political motive was not within the hypotheses” on which he was working.
Opposition politicians nonetheless speculated that Gutiérrez had been murdered because of his testifying against Vice-President Fernández in relation to the so-called “notebooks” scandal. That scandal, which involved public officials allegedly taking bribes “worth hundreds of millions of dollars for public works contracts,” resulted in the arrests and jailing of dozens of Argentinian politicians and businessmen.
Fernández, however, was charged with corruption in 2018, but was protected from prosecution by parliamentary immunity stemming from her positions as a Senator and current Vice-President. Opposition leaders also demanded that the murder investigation be transferred to the Argentinian federal court because a prosecutor involved in the case, Natalia Mercado, is a niece of Vice-President Fernández.
Note: In many countries, it is entirely plausible that a prominent businessman could be violently killed solely for financial gain or personal motives. Recent Argentinian history, however, constricts that notion of plausibility when Fernández is involved. In 2015, an Argentinian prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, was shot to death only hours before he was scheduled to testify against Fernández, in an investigation directed at her allegedly covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Although an initial investigation concluded that Nisman committed suicide in his apartment, an Argentinian federal judge ruled in 2017 that Nisman’s fatal wound could not have been self-inflicted and that Nisman had been murdered.
To date, no one has been charged for involvement in Nisman’s murder, the judge who led that investigation died of natural causes earlier this year, and Argentina’s Anti Corruption Office withdrew from that money laundering court cases involving the Kirchner family, Fernández, and two of her siblings. With that backdrop, observers of Argentinian affairs will need to monitor the Gutiérrez case closely, to see whether the evidence bears out the theory that his death is a tragic but simple case of murder.