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Argentine Spy in Nisman Case Accused of Smuggling

FILE - A reporter holds an image of Antonio Stiusso, former Argentine spy chief, who left the country last week after making a statement to the prosecutor investigating Alberto Nisman's death.

The Argentine spy at the center of a scandal over last month's death of a state prosecutor was accused Tuesday of importing metric tons of contraband merchandise during his final years as head of the country's counterintelligence office.

Antonio "Jaime" Stiusso was forced out of the SI intelligence service in December, weeks before state prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused President Cristina Fernandez of trying to cover up Iran's alleged involvement in a deadly 1994 bombing.

The government says Nisman, who was found shot dead Jan. 18, was manipulated by Stiusso into leveling the accusation as a way of smearing Fernandez.

Nisman's mysterious death has brought long-simmering questions about the integrity of the Argentine justice system to a boil, prompting the opposition to take to the streets to demand answers.

In its latest accusation against Stiusso, the government Tuesday said he secretly imported metric tons of unidentified goods whose destination remains unknown.

"We have concluded that in 2013 and 2014, contraband imports were received totaling 94 tons. These goods did not go to the SI, nor did they serve any function of the agency,'' national intelligence chief Oscar Parrilli said in a televised address.

"Much of this merchandise entered the country under the name Antonio Stiusso,'' he added. Some customs agents have also been implicated in the illegal import operations, he said.

Stiusso left Argentina last week after making a statement to the prosecutor investigating Nisman's death.

Judges have been assigned to look at the evidence against Fernandez and that against Stiusso, to make sure the allegations are not simply a case of smear and countersmear by warring factions in the murky world of Argentine intelligence.

The 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires killed 85. The Argentine courts pinned the crime on agents of Iran, which denies any involvement.

Stiusso had long been at odds with Fernandez over her proposal to form a "truth commission'' with Tehran aimed at resolving the crime, according to sources who were familiar with the investigation and asked not to be named.

Nisman said Fernandez also took the illegal step of secretly offering immunity to the Iranian suspects in order to put through a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran. The day after he died, Nisman was scheduled to outline his case before Congress.

State prosecutors joined opposition figures and tens of thousands of citizens in a march last week, protesting what they described as government meddling in the courts.

Polls show that Fernandez, her image already dented by an ailing economy, has lost popularity because of the Nisman scandal. She is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in the October election.