Spy claims raised in Uruguay probe of ex-presidential guard

Nov 29, 2022, 7:00 AM | Updated: 10:07 pm
Alejandro Astesiano, body guard for presidencial candidate Luis Lacalle Pou, stands on the sideline...

Alejandro Astesiano, body guard for presidencial candidate Luis Lacalle Pou, stands on the sidelines of Pou's campaign rally at the headquarters of the "Federation of Laborers and Drink Workers, FOEB, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. Astesiano has been under investigation for the last two months of 2022, for falsifying passports. (Javier Calvelo/adhocFOTOS via AP)

(Javier Calvelo/adhocFOTOS via AP)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Two months into an investigation of alleged passport forgery involving the former security chief for Uruguay’s president, questions are expanding after a newspaper’s reports that prosecutors have also found evidence of political spying and blackmail against opposition politicians.

Uruguay’s secretary of the presidency, Álvaro Delgado, and the deputy secretary, Rodrigo Ferrés, testified Tuesday to prosecutors in the forgery investigation of Alejandro Astesiano, who headed security for President Luis Lacalle Pou.

That session came after 10 days of stories in La Diaria outlining details on the purported espionage that the newspaper says are contained in a cellphone and other digital devices obtained by prosecutors in the forgery probe.

La Diaria said the information about the political spying turned up in an analysis of Astesiano’s devices by prosecutor Gabriela Fossati’s office as part of the passport probe. It said the Prosecutor’s Office has not opened a separate investigation into that issue.

The newspaper says the political espionage allegedly included interceptions of telephone calls to individuals using spy software of the Ministry of the Interior and the selling of such information by Astesiano. Interior Minister Luis Alberto Heber denied that happened during a Senate Securirty Committee hearing last week.

In one report, La Diaria said Astesiano allegedly sold state intelligence services to an Argentine soybean businessman, who accessed data involving a shipment of wheat and corn.

Both Astesiano and the company that made the Interior Department’s Guardian spy software have denied that he had access to the software. Astesiano has said he lied to his clients about the use of spy software.

The company Vertical Skies is a security consultancy run by several former Uruguayan military officers based in Miami, Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

La Diaria says the company asked Astesiano for personal information about Sen. Mario Bergara and Sen. Charles Carrera, both opponents of the government.

The newspaper says the objective was to pressure the senators into dropping a criminal complaint they filed against a decree giving a monopoly on operations in the port of Montevideo to the operator Katoen Natie until 2081.

“The info I need is everything personal. They want to tie them up so that they withdraw the complaint,” Marcelo Acuña, manager of the company and a former military officer, wrote to Astesiano in a cellphone chat in March, according to La Diaria. “I need all the personal data and ties.”

The paper says that in August, Astesiano received a money transfer — the amount of which has not come to light in the messages — via Western Union from Boca Raton, Florida, where Vertical Skies has its headquarters.

La Diaria says Acuña also asked Astesiano to arrange a meeting with the president and to provide information on bidding to seel oceanic patrol boats to the Uruguayan navy and about the air force’s interest in buying aircraft.

The two senators who allegedly were spied on also testified to prosecutors Tuesday.

They called on the Interior Ministry to provide accountability. Carrera said the alleged operation had a “mafia character.”

“If we who have a special status were subdued, all Uruguayans have to worry,” Carrera said.

Delgado, the presidency secretary, declined to answer questions from reporters after appearing before prosecutors, but he said it would be “very serious” if the investigation confirms what La Diaria has published.

Astesiano is in prison pending his trial for his alleged role in a criminal association that provided fake birth certificates for Russians so they could get Uruguayan passports.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

TV anchors T.J. Holmes, Amy Robach leave ABC amid romance

NEW YORK (AP) — T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, anchors at the afternoon extension of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” are leaving the network after their romance was reported in November. The pair were taken off the air and placed on temporary hiatus after photos surfaced of them holding hands and spending time together. Both were […]
2 days ago
From left, Sweden's Defense Minister Pal Jonson, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Foreign Ministe...
Associated Press

Finnish, Swedish FMs: NATO membership process hasn’t stopped

HELSINKI (AP) — The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland reiterated in separate interviews published Saturday that the process for the two Nordic nations to join NATO is continuing despite Turkey’s president saying Sweden shouldn’t expect his country to approve its membership. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström acknowledged in an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Gregory Allen Howard who wrote ‘Remember the Titans’ dies

NEW YORK (AP) — Screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard, who skillfully adapted stories of historical Black figures in “Remember the Titans” starring Denzel Washington, “Ali” with Will Smith and “Harriet” with Cynthia Erivo, has died. He was 70. Howard died Friday at his home in Miami after a brief illness, according to a statement from publicist […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Delaware Gov. John Carney tests positive for COVID-19

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Delaware Gov. John Carney has tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office announced on Saturday. Carney tested positive late Friday using an at-home antigen test after experiencing mild symptoms, according to a news release. Carney, 66, said he’s “feeling fine” and is isolating himself — following U.S. Centers for Disease Control […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Man accused in substation vandalism is released from custody

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — One of the two men charged with vandalizing electrical substations in Washington state over the holidays to cover a burglary was ordered released from federal custody Friday to seek substance abuse help. A federal judge issued the order for Matthew Greenwood, 32, after renewed efforts by his attorney to get Greenwood […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Dismissal of lawsuit over Columbus Day name change upheld

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that the mayor of Philadelphia discriminated against Italian Americans in renaming the city’s Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. A U.S. District judge ruled a year ago that the plaintiffs, a council member and three Italian American […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Spy claims raised in Uruguay probe of ex-presidential guard