ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES
—– At the beginning of 2013 Argentina’s prosecutors announced that several hooligan gang leaders would go on trial before the end of the year.
Supposedly the Supreme Court was establishing three committees through which judges would propose how to speed up criminal trials within 90 days while Security Minister Sergio Berni also said that trials must be speeded up.
Berni also asked judges and prosecutors to work harder and said that some judges “forgot” to apply the law properly. He also urged club presidents to collaborate.
Of course, nothing happened and the tale of inaction involving the barras bravas at all Argentina’s leading clubs is scandalous.
Recently, Real Madrid’s security chief visited Buenos Aires and was amazed that so much talk about the problem of hooligan gangs resulted in nothing being done.
So what is the government now doing about it? A bill is being presented to change the crime of “illicit association” simply to “criminal acts” which, it is claimed, will make prosecution easier.
Nothing of the kind. For one thing, it lets club officials who collaborate with hooligans off the hook while a prosecutor has admitted to the Herald here that it really meant yet another law to protect criminals from prosecution.
The present state of affairs at Argentina’s top clubs illustrates the depth and breadth of the problem:
At Boca Juniors . . .
. . . Rafael Did Zeo, leader one of its hooligan groups, has a long list of prosecutions against him which are still pending, some from 2012 and before. He has escaped free every time so far, except once but even then he went to jail with his sentence cut by almost half.
Several police officers accused of collaborating with him are due to go on trial with him. We are still waiting.
Another hooligan is in jail for a murder which has nothing to do with football and a third is on the run.
The only other person who went to jail for a couple of weeks for helping him was ex-San Lorenzo goalkeeper Migliore.
While Di Zeo was also involved in handing tickets to San Lorenzo hooligans so they could attend the San Lorenzo-Boca Juniors match (banned for visiting fans) which has been investigated with no result, there was also an investigation about the re-sales of match tickets by hooligans which robbed Boca members of tickets which seems to have petered out.
Judge Manuel De Campos has sent some hooligans for trial due in mid-2014. Will it really happen?
Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici is right in saying that the government should stop hooligans getting into stadiums which should not be left to club officials, it is ironic that he should say that the problem will never be solved when he has shown himself to be an example of a president trying to protect his so-called “official” gang and himself from prosecution.
At River Plate . . .
. . . in 2007, a gang member (Gonzalo Acro) was murdered. Several suspects went on trial and were sentenced to jail – including the two gang leaders, the well-to-do Schlenker brothers who received life sentences, but they are still free. One of the two was even allowed to leave the country for a while.
For some reason their sentences were not due to be confirmed until the middle of last year but this never happened. Also, in 2007, there was a fight inside the club between two groups of hooligan fans with weapons and several injuries. The so-called “investigation” was closed last year without any results.
In 2011, referee Sergio Pezzotta of River Plate’s playoff match which finally relegated them to the National B Division, was threatened at half-time by River Plate’s hooligan gang that he should do everything possible to let the club win.
The gang was filmed – and it is known who they are – while one of them said that club officials had sent them. Only last year, it was announced that they would go on trial this year, Who knows?
At Independiente . . .
. . . president Javier Cantero said he would drive the hooligans out of the club. He didn’t. Of course, he had no help from the authorities, nor from the Argentinian FA nor from other clubs. But first he gave them banners then he was attacked continually for not giving the hooligans any other help (free tickets and fares to away games and money they had received before, etc.) as also were other groups working for the club.
One match was suspended last season when two groups of hooligans, with weapons, fought outside the stadium. The police took no further action, apparently because they could not find who owned the weapons.
At Racing Club . . .
. . . three hooligans are due to be prosecuted for the murder of club member Nicolas Pacheco. This was announced by a court last June but nothing has happened yet.
Also finally announced last year was the trial of 20 gang members for the murder of Independiente fan Gustavo Rivero. That happened many years ago and a trial had been announced before, but never undertaken.
At Velez Sarsfield . . .
. . . last year, a gang member (Diego Bogado) was murdered on the premises in a room to which the gang had the key. Several hooligans have been detained in an investigation but have not been prosecuted.
There were CC-TV cameras in that room but investigators say the images had been erased. Also, a member of the staff said that hooligans are being given 300 invitations and 700 other free tickets for every home match under orders from the committee.
The list of unfinished investigations and unaccepted evidence continues and the latest is a ticket scandal at River Plate with both the board and hooligans involved.
Is it just that the court authorities are no good . . . or is it that really they do not want to punish hooligans?