Fraud negotiated at presidential headquarters: irregular passport scandal for Russians rocks Uruguay

A scandal that has been knocking at the door of the presidency has shaken Uruguay since the last week of September.

On the last day 25, then President Luis Lacalle Pou’s head of security, Alejandro Astesiano, was arrested on suspicion of leading a document forgery scheme for people from Russia to obtain Uruguayan citizenship. [ .

According to the first information, Russian citizens sent their birth certificates, and officials of local identification bodies involved in the fraud, they altered the documents to include the names of alleged Uruguayan parents or grandparents – which allowed them to obtain citizenship.

Investigations are still investigating the scope of the fraud and for how long. it was working but prosecutor Gabriela Fossati estimated that “thousands” of documents may have been falsified.

“Astesiano intervened both as a translator and or as an organizer and get clients, agree on the value of their participation, pay the notary public and indicate to interested parties the steps to be followed”, explained Fossati. A Uruguayan clerk and two Russian citizens (who worked as recruiters of interested parties) were also denounced.

The motivation for obtaining Uruguayan citizenship is still unclear, but two suspicions are the use of passports to enter Europe, with the aim of developing criminal activities with gangs operating in the Old Continent, or to launder money in Uruguayan banks.

Last week , the local press revealed that a Russian couple entered Uruguay in June 2021, authorized by the secretary of the presidency, Álvaro Delgado, and obtained Uruguayan citizenship three months later.

Although the arrival of foreigners was prohibited at the time due to the pandemic, both were benefited by a decree that allowed the entry of 18 ) people in the country, including businessmen, workers in major works and audiovisual producers.

The Russian couple would be interested in investing in a hilarious work. waterway in the department of Cologne, as well as building a casino and a shopping mall. Investigations find out whether both were included in Astesiano’s scheme.

Former security chief had a conviction for fraud

The scheme was discovered after an official from the National Directorate of Civil Identification noticed changes in birth certificates. An internal investigation pointed out that Russians, Venezuelans, Cubans and Uruguayans were involved in the frauds.

When Astesiano was arrested, Lacalle Pou said he was surprised and that he had received the information that his head of security would have no criminal record. “You know how the president of all Uruguayans acts. If there were any indication, I would not have trusted him [Astesiano] with the most precious asset I have, which is my family”, said the president.

In the end, it was revealed that Astesiano had a history, including a conviction in 2014 for fraud, due to a scheme in which he would rent vacation homes in Punta del Este that did not exist – the former boss Lacalle Pou’s security team did the trading over the internet, collected signals from victims and then disappeared from the map. He was sentenced to 18 months in detention, but the time he spent in provisional detention was discounted and the process was suspended.

In addition to the investigations being carried out by the Federal Public Ministry and the Uruguayan government, the country’s Parliament also wants to investigate the matter. The Frente Amplio, an opposition coalition, wants to convene representatives of the Ministry of the Interior to provide clarifications to the Legislature in the coming days.

The National Party, party of Lacalle Pou, says it favorable to these testimonies. “We are going to vote on what they [Frente Ampla] propose and then we will listen to the government’s explanations”, a senator from the National Party told the newspaper El País.

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