Argentine judge orders search of navy offices in submarine inquiry


Buenos Aires (AFP)

An Argentine judge on Wednesday ordered searches of the navy headquarters and a shipyard as part of an investigation into alleged irregularities in repairs on the submarine that disappeared 35 days ago, judicial sources said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether safety and material protocols were fully implemented when the submarine San Juan underwent maintenance and repairs between 2007 and 2014.

The sub had reported a problem with its batteries shortly before it disappeared, with a crew of 44 aboard, in waters in the South Atlantic.

"The crew members are dead," influential pro-government deputy Elisa Carrio told a television channel 10 days ago, even as family members staged street protests to demand that the government not give up its search for the vessel.

Judge Sergio Torres called for searches of navy headquarters and of the state-operated Tandanor shipyard for any documents that might show irregularities in the work on the submarine, which was launched in Germany in 1983 and acquired by Argentina two years later.

The sub's disappearance was a serious blow for the navy and for the government of President Mauricio Macri, who has called for the dismissal of navy chief Marcelo Srur. Two senior officers were dismissed earlier, prompting four of their high-ranking comrades to submit resignations in solidarity.

Judge Marta Yanez is overseeing another inquiry into "possible wrongdoing," a response to desperate pleas from family members for answers.

On another investigative front, the Chamber of Deputies voted Wednesday to create a commission tasked with issuing a final report within a year, "with broad powers to request documentation, take statements from public officials, order studies and expert analyses," legislative sources said. The initiative is now before the Senate.

The San Juan is one of the country's three submarines. Only one of the other two is currently operational.