Argentine judge finds no crime in US cargo dispute

AP News
Posted: Mar 10, 2011 6:29 PM
Argentine judge finds no crime in US cargo dispute

A judge says Americans committed no crimes when a U.S. military team flew in undeclared cargo after being invited to provide training to Argentine federal police.

Argentine Judge Marcelo Aguinsky has formally closed the case, saying discrepancies between the actual cargo and the plane's manifest were nothing that customs agents couldn't handle, the court system announced on its website Thursday.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman tried to make a federal case out of the undeclared cargo, leading a multi-agency raid on the U.S. plane.

Personally overruling the objections of U.S. diplomats, he ordered the lock broken on a suitcase carrying classified material. Agents found that only one of three communications devices was listed on a manifest prepared weeks before the training course.

Agents also found that medicine inside a kit wasn't itemized, some serial numbers on machine gun equipment didn't match, and some stretchers, plastic tables and bandages brought in for the crisis response course had not been declared.

The seizure resulted in the course being canceled and forced the U.S. military to change secret codes that the Argentines exposed. In all, the incident cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 million, officials said.

Timerman said further action would be up to the judge. Now that Aguinsky has closed the case without a criminal charge, the Argentine presidency must decide whether to give the cargo back.