It is said that in the provinces the people with the most power are the governor, the bishop and the federal judge. In Mendoza, Walter Bento He occupied one of those roles. He was the head of the federal court 1. He was not only in charge of cases for organized crime crimes, but also electoral jurisdiction. He was the one who organized and controlled the national elections in the province. Definitely, a key judge for politics.
Bento today was dismissed by the Jury for Prosecution of National Magistrates for five acts of poor performance of his duties. Immediately afterwards he was imprisoned in the case in which he is being prosecuted with preventive detention, accused of being the head of an illicit association that, from his court, collected bribes from defendants to benefit them in the files. He is also being tried for money laundering and illicit enrichment, among other crimes.
Catholic, Boca fan and owl collector, Bento was appointed during the government of Nestor Kirchnerwith the endorsement of the historic operator of Mendoza Peronism Juan Carlos “Chueco” Mazzón, both already deceased. He took charge of federal court No. 1 of Mendoza in September 2006, after a public contest by the National Judicial Council, the same body that suspended him from office last May and sent him to impeachment.
The courthouse had been vacant since 2002 when then-federal judge Luis Leiva He was dismissed after being denounced by the deceased banker Raul Monetawho assured that that magistrate had asked him for a bribe.
Bento’s name resonated in national politics in 2011 when he ordered a raid with the Gendarmerie on Cablevisión, in the middle of the conflict between Kirchnerism and the Group Clarion. At that time, the Supreme Court annulled his intervention and Bento faced a complaint in the Judicial Council that ended up being dismissed, with the endorsement of Kirchnerism.
He was again in the spotlight when in March 2020, the Attorney General Dante Vega He was investigating a drug trafficking case and came across information that affected the judge. From the investigation into the phones, numerous text and voice messages emerged in which the “judge”, “number 1” or to the “big boss”, in supposed reference to the magistrate. To this were added the statements of Diego Barrerathe main defendant for the kidnapping and murder of the businessman and Customs broker Diego Aliagaa neighbor of the judge and who, it is suspected, would have acted on behalf of the magistrate.
According to the accusation, Bento led an illicit organization in which he would have operated with the assistance of lawyers Luciano Edgardo Ortego and Jaime Andrés Albatogether with the deceased Aliaga, to carry out a criminal mechanism through which procedural benefits were offered for the payment of gifts.
Among those prosecuted for having paid to obtain benefits there are accused of smuggling and drug trafficking, crimes within the jurisdiction of the federal justice system and in whose cases Bento participated. According to this accusation, under the leadership of Bento, these people would have deployed maneuvers to illicitly benefit certain defendants, after paying bribes.
The events began to be judged last June by the Federal Oral Court 2 of Mendoza, which today arrested Bento. Among the accused are the wife –Marta Boiza– and two of Bento’s sons, accused of being alleged front men in the illicit enrichment of the now former magistrate.
“Dr. Walter Ricardo Bento has committed acts that “harm the public service, dishonor the country or the public office” [Fallos 305:113]which, based on the considerations taken into account in the preceding paragraphs, constitutes a cause for poor performance”, upheld the Prosecution Jury of the Nation’s Magistrates in the majority vote by which he was dismissed.
The jurors added that the accusations against the judge “are truly serious and imply a serious impairment of his suitability to continue exercising the judiciary, as his conduct evidences designs that go against the principles that should govern his actions as a member of the National Judiciary and represent faults that demonstrate the loss of essential skills for a judge to deserve public trust, especially if the sensitive issues on which he or she has to issue a decision are taken into account.”
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