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Argentina Bomb Probe Gains Momentum

November 23, 1997

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ A police officer linked to the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish center received a suspicious $2.5 million payment a week before the attack, a congressional commission says.

The discovery of the payment has given new momentum to the lagging 3-year-old probe of the attack, which killed at least 86 people.

Authorities have asked the FBI to search for bank accounts that chief inspector Juan Jose Ribelli may have in the United States, prosecutor Eamon Mullen said Friday.

Ribelli is one of three high-ranking provincial police officers and a former officer who were charged last year in the bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association center. Investigators suspect the Argentines helped Middle East militants carry out the attack.

The three active officers were suspended after being indicted.

The four men are accused of supplying a van that was later filled with explosives and detonated at the Jewish center. A civilian is accused of refurbishing the van before allegedly handing it over to Ribelli.

The investigating commission said Thursday that documents had been found with Ribelli’s signature accepting the cash sum from his father, a 90-year-old retired railway worker. The cash was to be split between Ribelli and his four brothers, the documents said.

Carlos Soria, the head of the commission, said the transaction raised suspicions because of its timing and because the origin of the money is unclear.

Media reports have said Ribelli claims at least part of the money came from an inheritance. He was summoned by the commission last week but declined to appear.

Ribelli’s signature on the documents appeared to conflict with his earlier statements to investigators that he was outside Argentina the week before the July 18, 1994, attack, which also injured 250 people.

Jewish leaders in Argentina said the documents seemed to prove that the bombers received considerable local help.

``This confirms the theory of a local connection with two faces: one mercenary and the other ideological,″ said Ruben Beraja, the leader of Argentina’s 250,000-strong Jewish community, the largest in South America.

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