• The Star Staff

GEO investigation of Telegram chat that led ex-Gov. Rosselló to resign last summer yields nothing

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Over a year after the Center for Investigative Journalism released an 889-page document that contained a Telegram chat which involved former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and various members of his cabinet and led to their resignations, the Government Ethics Office (GEO) announced recently through a press release that they were forced to close their investigation on July 25 due to a lack of authentication from the aforementioned chat.

GEO Director Luis Pérez Várgas defended the office against accusations of throwing in the towel on the investigation during an interview on Telenoticias. He said he could not compel his office to “sow evidence where there is none.”

Meanwhile, he told the same outlet that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice declined to provide information to the GEO as both have ongoing investigations into the case and, he added, the plaintiffs pointed out that the documents had been tampered with.

“I don’t like it when my office is being tarnished or when they say: ‘Oh, look, they gave in, they covered it up.’ All of that is shocking, but none of that can move the office to despair because they attack us in order to sow evidence where there is none,” he said. “I think that you’re not telling the truth, put in your sworn statement this and that because I think that you’re lying. That’s not how it works, even if it seems obvious.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Noticentro, Pérez Vargas said he couldn’t say why the GEO did not disclose that the investigation had been closed since July, yet it could have disclosed it. Meanwhile, when asked by the interviewer for the names of the plaintiffs who did not cooperate, he said he would not mention them as there was a chance of the investigation being reopened should new evidence appear.

“There were people who did not cooperate. We will not go into the names of people involved in an ongoing criminal investigation,” Pérez Vargas said. “[As a matter of] responsibility, we do not want to affect the likelihood that they are seized.”

Nonetheless, attorney Mayra López Mulero told Noticentro that neither of her clients, former Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado Gautier or his son Raúl Maldonado Nieves (also known as “Raulie”), were summoned by the GEO “at any moment involving the chat.”

“I am simply telling you that, involving this case, it was executed along the path of least resistance, superficially,” López Múlero said. “[The procedure was] irresponsible, mediocre … motivated with the deliberate purpose of favoring ‘the brothers.’”

Neither federal authorities nor the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (PFEI by its Spanish initials), who took up the investigation on June 23, have reported any outcomes of their investigations. According to a PFEI resolution released on Feb. 13, possible violations of the Penal Code and the GEO Law, such as interfering in governmental matters, institutional negligence and ideological falsehood, could have been committed by Rosselló Nevares, former Financial Advisory Authority and Fiscal Agency Director Christian Sobrino Vega, former La Fortaleza legal adviser Alfonso Orona Amilivia, former Public Affairs Secretary Ramón Rosario Cortés, advertiser Edwin Miranda Reyes and/or lobbyist and Rosselló Nevares’ former campaign director Elías Sánchez Sifonte.