BUENOS AIRES – A political scandal is exploding in the Argentine province of Santiago del Estero, where the mayor of its capital city, Julio Alegre, resigned after the judiciary raided his homes looking for evidence in a huge fraud cases, officials said Sunday.
The investigation was begun in May when Argentine judicial authorities found that city employees in Santiago, located 1,150 kilometers (713 miles) north of Buenos Aires, cashed checks for between 5,000 ($1,315) and 50,000 pesos ($13,500) for payment to state suppliers, officials said.
Alegre, during his tenure in office, rapidly accumulated a fortune that includes palatial homes and luxury automobiles, among other properties that were raided on Saturday, and their opulence has caused “amazement” among justice officials, the judge in charge of the case, Gustavo Herrera, admitted to local media.
The fraud could total some 15 million pesos ($4 million) and the director of Public Works for the city, Oscar Omar Farias, is a fugitive in the case, judicial officials said.
Judge Herrera, who on Saturday ordered eight properties linked to Alegre raided, also will send a request to Uruguay to find out if the mayor has an apartment there valued at about $1 million.
Alegre’s resignation, presented Saturday night, will be discussed Monday by the Santiago City Council.
If accepted, the judiciary would bring him to trial for being the person heading a network of “illicit association, illicit enrichment, nonfulfillment of the duties of a public official and abuse of authority,” and it would order his arrest, according to justice spokesmen.