Argentina: Protecting Illegal Gambling to Send Prosecutor to Jail

The former regional prosecutor in the city of Rosario, Argentina, Patricio Serjal, may go to prison for 12 years for his participation in an illicit association created to protect an illegal gambling operation.

Going behind Bars but for How Long?

A 12-year sentence is what the prosecutors of the Agency for Organized Crime and Complex Crimes requested for Serjal who was arrested in August 2020 and charged with passive bribery, breach of the duties of a public official, embezzlement, transmission of protected data and failure to prosecute.

Serjal, who is under house arrest since February this year, should also pay a fine of ARS 90,000 ($580) and is facing disqualification if the proposal by the prosecutors’ sentence is approved.

Prosecutors requested five years in prison for a former employee of Serjal’s office, Nelson Ugolini, who was also charged with passive bribery and breach of the duties of a public official, a fine of ARS 90,000 ($580) and disqualification from holding a public employment role for 10 years.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Serjal and Ugolini, in collaboration with gambling businessman Leonardo Peiti, former prosecutor Gustavo Asahad, retired commissioner Alejandro Torrisi, as well as a few others some of who remain still unidentified, formed an illicit association with the purpose to benefit from the proceeds of a network of illegal gambling dens and illegal wagering via electronic means lacking proper authorization.

Investigation revealed that the members of the illicit association had various contributions and played different roles, including organizing, exploiting and administering illegal games of chance, offering and accepting gifts to public officials to stimulate them to fail in carrying out their functions, failing to prosecute crimes and providing confidential information to people interested in the failure of the investigations.

Other Participants Already Serving Jail Time

Former prosecutor Asahad was also arrested in August 2020 and accused of participating in an illegal scheme to collect between $4,000 and $5,000 per month from the illegal gambling operation run by Peiti in exchange for warning him about legal cases against him and stalling investigations.

Both were sentenced to six years in prison last year – Peiti in December and Asahad in September – but the former prosecutor had his sentence reduced by half after agreeing to collaborate with the prosecution. Peiti was also slapped with an ARS 47 million ($303,000) fine.

A third person who was involved in the scheme, Senator Armando Traferri, could not be summoned by the Prosecutor’s Office as acting legislators are protected by the constitution of Santa Fe against initiation of criminal proceedings and a Senate vote in December 2020 refused to renounce his privileges.

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