Ex-spy chief disappears in latest plot twist of Argentina scandal

Story highlights

  • The former spy chief was to testify on the death of a special prosecutor
  • The prosecutor accused President Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up terrorism

Buenos Aires (CNN)The scandal enmeshing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner already had a plot as twisted as a Machiavelli novel.

But this week, it contorted again, when the country's former spy chief disappeared.
    Horacio Antonio Stiuso was supposed to testify Thursday about the mysterious death of a special prosecutor, who had leveled scathing accusations at Fernandez.
    Authorities have not been able to find the ex-director of the Secretary of Intelligence, let alone notify him that he has been called to testify.

    Terror, Iran, Fernandez

    The intrigue surrounding him, the dead prosecutor and the President dates back to 1994 -- when a car bomb demolished a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.
    Alberto Nisman died from a gunshot wound last month. Was it suicide or murder?
    Special prosecutor Alberto Nisman implicated Iran in the attack, in his nearly 300-page investigation report. Then he accused Fernandez of covering up Tehran's involvement to sweeten a trade deal.
    Cash-strapped Argentina would allegedly get Iranian oil in exchange for meat and grain.
    Shortly after filing his report and one day before he was to testify before lawmakers about his allegations in January, Nisman was found dead in his apartment with a gunshot wound to the head.
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    In his trash can, investigators found a draft warrant for Fernandez's arrest.

    Fernandez goes after spies

    The President was quick to call it a suicide but changed her story a few days later. A test found no gunpowder residue on Nisman's hands, as would have been expected if he had pulled the trigger.
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    Fernandez's government blamed the intelligence agency for his death, and the President filed a bill for the agency to be dissolved and replaced by the new Federal Intelligence Agency.
    The Senate took up debate on the bill on Wednesday. Supporters hope to have it on Fernadez's desk to sign by February 25.
    And she pointed the finger at Stiuso, accusing him of feeding Nisman false information and having a hand in his death. Stiuso was using Nisman to discredit her for firing Stiuso last year, she claimed.

    Ex-spy allowed to testify

    But Stiuso's replacement, Oscar Parrilli, reeled him back in -- not as an agent, but as a witness. On Thursday, the director said Fernandez would relieve Stiuso of his pledge of secrecy.
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    "The President of the nation has given us the directive and now we are going to work on preparing the authorization to relieve Mr. Stiuso of the obligation to keep secrets," Parrilli said.
    Though now allowed to testify, Stiuso can't been found.