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Latino Daily News

Sunday July 15, 2012

Nightclub Owner Sentenced to 4.5 Years for Deadly Fire

Nightclub Owner Sentenced to 4.5 Years for Deadly Fire

Photo: Republica Cromañon victims

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

The owner of an Argentine discotheque where 193 people died more than seven years ago in a fire was sentenced here Friday to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Rafael Levy, who will remain free on bail pending appeal, was found responsible for the Dec. 30, 2004, tragedy at the Republica Cromañon club in Buenos Aires.

The judges acquitted four other defendants, ex-cop Gabriel Sevald, former municipal officials Juan Carlos Lopez, Enrique Carelli and private security consultant Vicente Rizzo, spurring a protest by victims’ family members in the courtroom.

The deadly blaze was caused by a flare fired at the club’s ceiling during a concert by the band Callejeros.

Subsequent investigations showed the nightclub had been operating in violation of municipal safety regulations. On the night of the blaze, Republica Cromañon was jammed far beyond its maximum legal capacity.

The club’s then-manager, Omar Chaban, and Callejeros leader Patricio Fontanet were each sentenced to eight years in prison in May 2011.

The band’s drummer and agent, as well as three city employees, a cop and one of Chaban’s business associates, also received jail terms.

The appeals process continues, however, and no one has gone to jail so far.