Policeman implicated in Argentine bombing

This was not the first time that suspicion has fallen on Juan Jose Ribelli, a former police commissioner in charge of the grand auto theft division of the Buenos Aires provincial police.

Ribelli was arrested last year along with 10 other police officers on charges that they had sold terrorists the van used in the July 18, 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association, also known as AMIA.

The attack left 86 dead and more than 300 wounded.

No one is now being held in connection with the attack, which has prompted repeated criticisms by Jewish leaders here and abroad of those carrying out the investigation.

Along with its fruitless probe into the AMIA blast, the Argentine government has also been criticized for its inability to solve the March 17, 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy here, which left 29 dead and some 100 wounded.

Investigators have apparently long suspected that Ribelli and other police officers did far more than sell off a stolen van.

"We think those guys knew about the bombing," a member of the congressional committee said in an interview. "We are even considering the idea that they carried it out for money."

According to documents in the hands of the investigators, Ribelli claimed soon after the bombing to have received the money as part of a "living will" from his father.

But police sources called Ribelli's claim "ludicrous" after investigators found that Ribelli's father, a 90-year-old former railroad employee, is almost destitute and living on $75 a week.

The investigators agree that if the origin of the money can be established, Ribelli could be charged with being a "primary party" to the bombing.

Ribelli has written an open letter declaring his innocence and stating that those responsible for the bombing deserve the death penalty.