Uruguay’s got kind of a funny legal system, one private-equity honcho has had the misfortune of finding out. Having bought the country’s national airline in 2007 and then sold it back to the government at a loss five years later, Matías Campiani must have figured it was the last he’d hear about it, what with the indemnification given them by the Uruguayan government. Surely, he didn’t seem concerned when the Uruguayans asked him to cross the Rio de la Plata for a chat, because, you know, he went. And then got arrested.
And, from a conventional legal standpoint, that’s where the story ends, because Campiani and Leadgate’s others two partners were never charged with a crime. This does not prevent one from doing time in Uruguay, however, and so Campiani remains in prison. At least until today (he hopes), because one of the other funny things about the Uruguayan justice system is that from time to time, its Supreme Court justices go on field trips to prisons, and sometimes let inmates not charged with crimes to be freed on bail after serving a fair chunk of a potential sentence for a crime they might potentially be charged with. Oh yea, and if they play well with others. And if they get The New York Times to write a story about them.
Part of the reasoning was that Mr. Campiani had already been in prison for nearly half the time for which he could be sentenced in the event he were found guilty of fraud. “There is no conviction yet,” Mr. Oxandabarat said. He added that Mr. Campiani was able to reduce his time in prison by good conduct and through work or study….This week, the head of the Supreme Court acknowledged there were problems with the system.
“The Uruguayan criminal process is outmoded,” the court’s president, Jorge Chediak, said in an interview with El Observador, a newspaper in Montevideo. “It has become obsolete.”