Argentine Whistleblower Found Dead: Family Suspects Murder

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 23, 2019   

Natacha Jaitt accused close friend of Pope Francis of sex trafficking

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BUENOS AIRES (ChurchMilitant.com) - The mysterious death of a whistleblower in Argentina is prompting family members to demand an investigation into what they suspect to be murder.

Natacha Jaitt, a model and actress, had been working on outing what she claimed to be a pedophile sex ring among celebrities and elites. Two weeks before she was scheduled to give court testimony against Gustavo Vera, whom she accused of sex trafficking and who is a close associate of Pope Francis, she was found dead.

Two weeks before she was scheduled to give court testimony against Gustavo Vera, whom she accused of sex trafficking and who is a close associate of Pope Francis, she was found dead.

At 2 a.m. Saturday, her naked body was found on the bed of a room in the hotel Xanadu in Villa La Ñata in the town of Benavidez. Two men were questioned at the scene: 47-year-old Guillermo Riconi, owner of the Villa, and 48-year-old Raul Velaztiqui, a film producer and the one who placed the call to police on finding her body.

The autopsy report claimed the cause of death was "Heart-respiratory failure (multi-organ failure) that led to pulmonary edema." The autopsy also revealed traces of cocaine in her nasal passages.

According to Spanish magazine Clarìn:

A vehicle, cocaine, a fanny pack and a telephone were seized from the room. It was discovered that at least three more people were with the actress, who were captured by security cameras while fleeing the place, before police arrived. In the video recording you see them throwing a package into a ditch. It is suspected it contained some type of narcotics.

Jaitt's brother and attorney, however, insist she would never have used cocaine because of a medical condition she suffered. Both of them suspect foul play.

"[W]e understand that she may have been a victim of a crime, he [her brother] is afraid that she was the victim of a murder," said Alejandro Cipolla, Jaitt's attorney.

Regarding the autopsy, Cipolla did not participate, but insisted that it be recorded "from start to finish."

On Apr. 5, 2018, Jaitt tweeted: "I'm not going to kill myself, I'm not going to overdose or drown in a bathtub, I'm not going to shoot myself, so if any of this happens, IT WASN'T ME. Save this tweet."

Accusations Against Gustavo Vera

On Argentine daytime TV last year, Jaitt accused members of the soccer leagues of taking sexual advantage of poor, young males.

Referring to Newell's Old Boys, a sports club in Rosario, Santa Fe in Argentina, Jaitt said, "I reported that the kids from the pensions who had no money and were from small towns, kids who played in the minor leagues, were being asked for oral sex by Newell's Old Boys' kit man in exchange for cleats. He would ask for this from kids who had no money whatsoever."

Among those she accused was also Gustavo Vera, a longtime associate of Pope Francis, claiming he ran a sex trafficking ring using his anti-trafficking organization as a front group.

"Did you know that [Gustavo Vera] is a pedophile? That he is a trafficker?" Jaitt asked a panelist on the show. "Did you know that he gets brothels shut down and then he keeps them for himself illegally? Did you know that I carried out a study and that I have video records of prostitutes talking about it ... ?"

 
Jaitt claimed she had presented her evidence to law enforcement, and went on to detail how she investigated Vera.
 
"What did I do? Take video, do logistics and follow him for a year," she explained. "Prostitutes from the streets and unfortunately from apartments had to endure being raped and sexually abused for 200, 500 pesos ... in the power of Mr. Vera."
 
On being challenged by a panelist who is a friend of Vera, Jaitt shot back, "I can prove everything."
 
Vera is head of La Alameda, an organization that claims to fight sex trafficking in Argentina. He's a longtime associate of Pope Francis, their collaboration going back more than a decade. They first met in 2008, when Vera's organization was going through a difficult time.
 
Image

Gustavo Vera (left)

with Abp. Jorge Bergoglio (right)

"We needed protection," Vera told People Magazine in 2015, explaining that members of his organization were being assaulted in the streets by criminal groups they had denounced.

"We heard Archbishop Bergoglio give a homily on human trafficking and slavery and decided to approach him," he said.

"From that moment on, we worked together on the streets," Vera said. "And when there was a witness being intimidated by the perpetrators of the crimes, Jorge would make sure to be photographed with that witness to send a clear message: 'We are all standing with this person who has been so brave.'"

Bergoglio nicknamed Vera "God's Trotsky," and Vera made clear his gratitude for Bergoglio's protection: "I am pretty sure Lucas and I would have ended up floating down the river face down had we not had Jorge’s support and involvement in our neighborhood association."

Image

Gustavo Vera (right) visiting Pope Francis

at Casa Santa Marta in 2015

After Bergoglio's elevation to the Holy See, he invited Vera to visit him at Casa Santa Marta, where the pope baptized the children of their mutual friend Lucas Schaerer.

In February 2015, Vera published a private email sent to him from the pontiff, who feared Argentina would soon be afflicted with many of the troubles experienced in Mexico.

Pope Francis still calls Vera once a week.

In the same TV appearance, Jaitt also mentioned Bergoglio's well-documented attempt to defend Fr. Julio César Grassi, a convicted pedophile

Grassi was found guilty in 2009 of two acts of aggravated assault of a minor, but was allowed to remain free while his appeals went through the court system. During that time he claimed the support of then-Cdl. Bergoglio, president of the bishops of Argentina, who commissioned a leading criminal defense lawyer, Marcelo Sancinetti, to put together a report to exonerate Grassi. 

The report, 2,800 pages long, was slammed for its attempts to discredit the victims, Attorney Juan Pablo Gallego, who represented the plaintiffs, saying it was a "scandalous instance of lobbying and exerting pressure on the Court."


 

The court was unswayed by Bergoglio's attempts to defend Grassi, finding the priest guilty of sex abuse and sentencing him to 15 years in prison. 

Judge Carlos Mahiques, among those who received the report, said it was "extremely partial," its goal being "to exert a subtle form of pressure on the judges" to rule in favor of Grassi.

In spite of Bergoglio's public role in commissioning the counter-study on Grassi's behalf, he denied having anything to do with it when questioned. A documentary published in 2018, titled "Sex Abuse in the Church: Code of Silence," revealed an exchange between the pontiff and a journalist asking about Grassi.

"Your Holiness! Your Holiness, in the Grassi case, did you try to influence Argentine justice?"

Pope Francis answered, "No."

"No? Then why did you commission a counter-inquiry?"

The pontiff replied, "I never did," before turning away.

Investigation Into Jaitt's Death

Jaitt had received multiple threats over the past year, and had recently accused two men of raping her. She was also set to appear in court in two weeks' time to give testimony and evidence against Vera.

A major investigation is being launched into the cause of Jaitt's death, involving a special team called by the attorney general of San Isidro, Beatriz Molinelli. The team will include several prosecutors as well as the deputy attorney general of San Isidro and a judicial secretary.

 

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