Israel’s Mossad provided the intelligence information that enabled Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman to prove that Iran orchestrated the 1994 AMIA terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed, an Israeli TV documentary claimed. And an ex-Mossad agent gave Nisman incriminating information on former Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s alleged efforts to cover up Iran’s role in the blast, in a sequence of events that ultimately led to Nisman’s assassination, the program also said.
The “Uvda” (Fact) documentary, broadcast Thursday night on Israel’s Channel 12, featured a lengthy interview with Uzi Shaya, a former Mossad agent who said he had extensive dealings with Nisman, and who acknowledged that documents he passed to Nisman, allegedly incriminating Kirchner, “may have caused his death.”
Argentine investigator Nisman identified the suicide bomber who blew up the AMIA Jewish center as Hezbollah operative Ibrahim Berro, and in a 2006 indictment traced the commissioning of the blast to a 1993 meeting of the Iranian leadership’s “Committee for Special Operations”; Iran was fuming at then-president Carlos Menem for halting cooperation with its nuclear program and for warming Argentina’s ties with Israel. Nisman’s allegations led to the issuing of international arrest warrants against some of the Iranians the following year for what remains the worst terror attack in Argentina’s history.
The “Uvda” report said it was the Mossad that identified the perpetrators and the orchestrators of the blast, and made the information available to Nisman.
In January 2015, Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment, a day before he was due to testify to an Argentine congressional panel on then president Kirchner’s role in covering-up Iran’s responsibility for the attack. A government official initially asserted that Nisman’s death — by a single bullet to the head fired at close range — was suicide, but Argentina has subsequently acknowledged it was a homicide.
Kirchner, who has always denied any illegality regarding her handling of AMIA-related matters and her dealings with Iran, is today Argentina’s vice president.
In Thursday’s documentary, Shaya said that he gave Nisman an envelope of documents allegedly incriminating Kirchner — including documents showing transfers of millions of euros from a major Iranian bank to accounts held by her family members in Cyprus, the Seychelles and the Cayman Islands — 10 days before Nisman was assassinated. Those documents prompted Nisman to cut short his vacation in Spain with his 15-year-old daughter, hurry back to Buenos Aires, and arrange to testify against Kirchner in Congress.
Shaya — who said his Mossad work had included an operation in which over $600 million in investments held globally by senior figures in the Iranian-funded Hezbollah terrorist organization were “dried out” — said he maintained contact with Nisman after leaving the Israeli spy agency, when he went to work for a private investigative firm.
He reconnected with Nisman, the program said, when the firm he worked for was providing services to Paul Singer, an American Jewish billionaire who runs the Elliott Management hedge fund (and who set up the Tel Aviv-based Start-Up Nation Central non-profit that highlights Israeli innovation). The fund was owed billions of dollars by the Argentine government after it bought Argentine bonds and held out for full repayment. Shaya said he passed to Nisman “material intended to enrich his investigation” of Kirchner’s allegedly illicit dealings with Iran.
Shaya, who was not working directly for the fund, said it was not aware of his connections to Nisman, and that he chose to approach the prosecutor of his own volition. The thinking was that if Kirchner became aware that Nisman had this information about the bank accounts, Shaya intimated, she would be prompted to repay the debt to Singer’s fund.
Shaya said he met with Nisman four times, and gave the Argentine prosecutor incendiary but not conclusive material “that it was up to him to check” on Kirchner’s alleged corruption. He said Nisman knew that he was no longer working for the Mossad at the time.
The material that Shaya handed over in the lobby of a Spanish hotel in early January 2015, including documents showing the bank transfers, however, was more definitive, essentially “cornering” Kirchner, according to the documentary. “Nisman and me weren’t buddies,” Shaya said. “He received the envelope, said thank you. That was the end of the story as far as I was concerned.”
Nisman cut short his vacation and landed back in Argentina on Monday, January 12, and told friends, including via SMS messages, that he now had conclusive evidence of Kirchner’s corruption, that “the truth will come out,” that he was “going for broke” and that his case against her had “all happened faster than I thought.”
On Wednesday, January 14, Nisman filed an official complaint against Kirchner and other senior Argentine officials for allegedly covering up Iran’s role in the AMIA bombing. In radio and TV interviews, he alleged that Kirchner had cut an illicit deal with Iran to give it immunity. “If I have the evidence, I am obligated to present it,” he said.
Nisman spent the next few days preparing the material he had arranged to present to the Congressional committee, sending one friend a photograph of his desk, covered in papers, as he worked. On Saturday, January 17, Nisman, who said often during his years of investigating the AMIA blast and fallout that he was receiving death threats, asked his computer technician Diego Lagomarsino to come his apartment, and told Lagomarsino he was concerned about security. Specifically, Lagomarsino told “Uvda,” Nisman said he needed a gun “to protect his [two] daughters” and asked Lagomarsino if he had one.
Lagomarsino said yes, went home to fetch it, returned to Nisman’s apartment three hours later with it, and then went home again. Nisman was found dead hours later, on Sunday January 18. The fatal bullet was fired from Lagomarsino’s gun.
Kirchner (indirectly) and Lagomarsino (directly), “Uvda” noted, have both been suspected in the killing, which is still being investigated.
“It was clear to me that he was murdered,” Shaya said of Nisman. Asked whether he felt guilty about his role in the sequence of events, he stressed that Nisman was doggedly pursuing Kirchner long before he reconnected with the prosecutor, but also said, “You don’t know where your responsibility is… It’s possible… The conscience starts to work…”
His interviewer said, “You gave Nisman the material…,” and Shaya completed the sentence: “…that may have caused his death? Yes.”
Later in the interview, Shaya added: “It was business. It wasn’t worth dying for.”
In a response to the TV show, Elliott Management officials said they were unaware of any incriminatory documents against Kirchner, or that any such documents were passed to a private investigative firm and from there to someone else. They also stressed that Shaya never worked for Elliott Management, and that nobody who advised Elliott Management was asked by the fund to be in contact with Nisman.
In a studio discussion after the documentary, investigative journalist Ronen Bergman said Shaya “should have known how badly this could end,” and that if the ex-Mossad agent had this kind of incriminatory material concerning a major terrorist attack on a Jewish target, “he should have shared it” with the Israeli authorities.
In the course of the interview, “Uvda” presenter Ilana Dayan showed Shaya paperwork apparently related to the alleged transfer of Iranian funds to Kirchner. The ostensibly incriminatory documents given by Shaya to Nisman, however, “Uvda” noted, were not found in Nisman’s apartment when his body was discovered, and have never been seen since.