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Argentina Blames Rogue Intelligence Agents In Shooting Death Of Prosecutor

Alberto Nisman was set to reveal details about his years-long investigation into a 1994 terror attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Investigators initially said he killed himself, but on Thursday, the government blamed rogue intelligence agents for the killing, adding to an already shocking mystery.

Last updated on January 23, 2015, at 4:08 p.m. ET

Posted on January 21, 2015, at 9:44 p.m. ET

Natacha Pisarenko / AP

The death of a prominent Argentinian prosecutor earlier this week has grown into a politically charged mystery that is roiling the South American country.

The saga began Sunday when Alberto Nisman was found shot to death in his swanky apartment in Buenos Aires just hours before testifying before the country's Congress in the biggest case of his career.

Nisman was set to reveal details about his years-long investigation into a 1994 terror attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. Iran and Hezbollah have for years been suspected of being behind the attack, which killed 85 people and injured more than 200.

Last week, Nisman shocked the nation by accusing the country's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, of helping Tehran try to cover up its involvement in the case with the hopes of getting commercial contracts.

An Argentine judge released the criminal complaint written by Nisman, Tuesday night. The complaint includes transcripts of intercepted phone calls between Iranian and Argentine government officials negotiating a deal that would cover up Iran's involvement in the 1994 attack, the New York Times reported.

Fernandez's administration says the prosecutor was deceived since the agents from the Intelligence Secretariat Nisman accuses of carrying out the cover-up plan "were not intelligence agents." Furthermore, Secretary to the Presidency Anibal Fernandez claims the complaint was not even written by Nisman.

Viviana Fein: -'Lamentablemente' no había rastros de pólvora. Y tampoco cabe citar a Berni. Memorizáte esta carita.

Matias E. Ruiz@MatiasERuizFollow

Viviana Fein: -'Lamentablemente' no había rastros de pólvora. Y tampoco cabe citar a Berni.

Memorizáte esta carita.

12:57 PM - 21 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

Investigators have strongly suggested Nisman's death was a suicide. And prosecutor Viviana Fein told the Associated Press that there appeared to be "no intervention" from outsiders.

However, ongoing revelations about the case fueled skepticism. Fein said Tuesday that no gunshot residue was found on Nisman's hands. She added, though, that the type of gun used in the shooting would not necessarily leave traceable particles on the skin.

But on Thursday, the president reversed the government's position on the cause of death by saying it was not a suicide.

AP Photo/Richard Drew

In a letter posted to her website, Fernandez suggested that Nisman's death was the "true operation" against the government, calling it "the suicide that (I am convinced) was no suicide."

"Prosecutor Nisman's accusation was never, in itself, the true operation against the Government. It was bound to fall apart after the very first steps," Fernandez wrote. "Nisman did not know this — he probably never did. The true operation against the Government was the Prosecutor's death after accusing the President, the Foreign Minister, and the Secretary General of La Cámpora of being accessories to the Iranians accused of the terrorist bombing of AMIA."

Then on Friday, the government said it suspected rogue agents from its own intelligence services were responsible for Nisman's death, Reuters reported.

From Reuters:

The government says Nisman's allegations and his death were linked to a power struggle at Argentina's intelligence agency and agents who had recently been fired.

It says they deliberately misled Nisman and may have had a hand in writing parts of his 350-page complaint.

"When he was alive they needed him to present the charges against the president. Then, undoubtedly, it was useful to have him dead," the president's chief of staff, Anibal Fernandez, said on Friday.

The government’s investigation into the shooting came under greater scrutiny after it was revealed that Security Secretary Sergio Berni arrived at Nisman’s apartment before police.

Berni said he went to the apartment to ensure that security "protocols" were adhered to and said he did not enter the bathroom where Nisman's body was found, the the Buenos Aires Herald reported.

Adding to the mystery, investigators on Wednesday found one footprint and a fingerprint in a corridor that led to Nisman's apartment, the Herald reported. The corridor, which was only recently found, is the third point of entry into Nisman's apartment, along with the front door of the building and a service entrance.

The corridor links Nisman's apartment with that of another tenant, and is often used by service technicians, the newspaper reported. Investigators are trying to determine if someone could have entered Nisman's bathroom from the corridor.

A man who claims to live in the same apartment building as Nisman posted pictures of the hallway on Twitter.

El "pasadizo" existe dnd están los aires. Se puede cruzar y pasar arriba o abajo. Dejo primeras fotos exclusivas.

Daniel Mendoza@Vanguardista10Follow

El "pasadizo" existe dnd están los aires. Se puede cruzar y pasar arriba o abajo. Dejo primeras fotos exclusivas.

10:28 AM - 21 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

The revelations and the timing of Nisman’s death have sparked widespread protests.

Maxi Failla / Via AFP / Getty Images

Even in the early stages of the investigation, Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, Nisman’s ex-wife and the mother of their two daughters, told reporters that she didn’t think that her ex-husband would have killed himself, the Telegraph reported.

Primera imagen de Sandra Arroyo Salgado, la ex mujer de #Nisman llegando al Juzgado: "dejemos que actúe la justicia"

Gustavo Saldaña@gustsaldanaFollow

Primera imagen de Sandra Arroyo Salgado, la ex mujer de #Nisman llegando al Juzgado: "dejemos que actúe la justicia"

10:41 AM - 20 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

Still, investigators continued to defend their case and initial theory. At the same time, Bloomberg News reported that government officials took to discrediting Nisman’s probe into the terror attack, which was released in full on Tuesday.

Daniel Luna / Via AFP / Getty Images

Iran and Hezbollah were long suspected of being behind the car bomb attack on July 18, 1994, at Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in Buenos Aires.

The bombing is suspected of being one of the first Islam-related terror attacks in the West before 9/11.

Nisman was brought onto the team investigating the bombing three years after it happened, and in 2004, then-President Nestor Kirchner appointed him as special prosecutor in the case.

Kirchner's wife, Cristina Fernandez, was elected president of the country in 2007. In 2013, Fernandez agreed to a deal with Iran to reopen the case into the bombing, a move that angered many, including Nisman.

Nisman filed his accusation against Fernandez on Jan. 14, a move noted by many as odd because he had left a vacation in Europe with his daughter to do so.

Nisman alleged that Fernandez, her foreign minister, and others had agreed to block Iranian officials from prosecution in the case with the hopes of gaining the contracts.

Reuters / Via Marcos Brindicci

Nisman said he had evidence of the deals that he obtained from wiretapping.

But after his death, Argentinian officials called the allegations weak and baseless, suggesting he had been taken for a fool.

"They sold him a connection that doesn't exist," Presidential Secretary Anibal Fernandez told reporters, according to Bloomberg News. "The allegations are weak and make no sense."

Fernandez also slammed Nisman's allegations against her in a statement posted to Facebook, saying he was part of an effort to "sidetrack, lie, cover up and confuse" the facts of the bombing investigation.

For many in Argentina, and the Jewish community, Nisman's death is stoking fears that those responsible for the bombing will never be brought to justice.

"It seems the only hope the victims and their families have of justice is for public outrage or private pressure to overcome self-interest and greed," Rob Eshman wrote in the Jewish Journal.

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