Jorge De Sousa Matías Imprisoned for Alleged Involvement In Smuggling Enterprise

Jorge De Sousa Matías, Administrator for International Development at River Plate Adventist University (Universidad Adventista del Plata), has been arrested by Argentina’s Policía Federal in a raid on the university campus, Spectrum has confirmed.

The court-ordered raid was one of eight conducted Thursday, apprehending six suspects in an alleged smuggling enterprise involving leaders in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Argentina. Two shipping containers, reported to customs officials as containing medical supplies for use in River Plate’s medical training programs, were found to be filled with some $15,000,000 Argentine Pesos worth of undeclared electronic goods in addition to some expired medical materials. The shipment was assessed to be worth $6,000,000 Pesos ($396,400 USD) in unpaid import fees.

The Argentina Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the named recipient of the shipment, issued a press release saying the shipment contained a variety of goods intended for the training of students from various departments at River Plate--particularly in the department of health sciences, which trains students for medical careers. The Church denied wrongdoing, and stated that it was cooperating with authorities.

Media reports from outlets in Argentina did not provide names of those arrested.

According to a student of River Plate Adventist University who asked not to be named, University President Oscar Ramos, held an official meeting with students at 6:30 p.m. on Friday Afternoon. At least 800 students attended. President Ramos confirmed that Jorge De Sousa Matías was arrested and remains in police custody. Ramos reiterated the church’s willingness to cooperate with the Justice Department and to rectify (Sp: “enmendar”) any wrong. The student noted that while Ramos didn't say it, his tone gave the impression that a crime had indeed been committed.

Ramos also asked students to pray for the situation and to help preserve a spiritual climate on campus as Week of Prayer began that evening with featured guest, Pastor Efraín Velázquez.

De Sousa Matías started at River Plate in March, 2008. Before that, he served as director of the Uruguay Adventist Academy (Instituto Adventista del Uruguay) with prior experience as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. In 2009, he was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Andrews University. His thesis was "Analisis de Razones por las que los Jovenes Abandonan la Iglesia Adventista Del Septimo Dia en Argentina" ("Analysis of Reasons the Youth Abandon the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Argentina").

His alleged participation in smuggling goods into Argentina was not a surprise to one Argentine expatriate living in the United States for two reasons: First, Argentina places notoriously high tariffs on goods coming into the country. Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who left office in 2015, heavily restricted foreign imports in order to boost Argentina’s own businesses and to prop up the value of the Peso. The expat with whom I spoke, who also asked that her name be withheld, stated that as far back as she can remember, goods coming into the country were subject to steep import fees, and

“The way taxes work when bringing electronics in Argentina is ridiculous. They almost make you pay for the content itself in fines. You have to pay twice--when purchasing outside the country and when bringing it in.”

Argentine people at all levels of society have gotten inventive in terms of getting goods and cash into the country.

Second, it seems that the school’s purported participation in bringing in undeclared goods is something of an open secret--not spoken about publicly, but known to many who have attended River Plate.

The Adventist Church’s involvement in smuggling continues to be the subject of intensifying media scrutiny in Argentina. With the bright spotlight now shone directly on the church, it is very likely that more details of the Argentina Union Conference’s involvement and the names of more suspects will emerge.

“The list of people involved is still huge,” the ex pat said.

De Sousa Matías is expected to be held in police custody until Thursday or Friday at earliest.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7652

Just my humble opinion from an ‘outsider’. This is the work of the adversary, the devil himself. From a cursory read of this article, it seems to me that the government ‘crackdown’ or corruption in relation to excessively high tariffs on imported good in order to fatten their pockets, the citizens of Argentina have had to find innovative ways to cope. The Adventist Church is not alone in this.

I’m certain there are a plethora of other organizations, churches, businesses and schools that are also culpable in these endeavors. And instead of the government taking responsibility for its own unethical and ludicrous policies that place an undue and excessive burden on the people, they execute raids, deflect blame and imprison church leaders who are trying to provide a medical education to students. God will vindicate Dr. De Sousa Matias. He has done nothing wrong.

My prayers are for him, the Union Church and the University who will all suffer because the government has no scruples nor compassion for its people.

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“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

I can’t believe that one is advocating to operating with abandon, regardless of existing laws in the country of operation, simply because we “are trying to provide a medical education to students.”

I am sorry, but I think that is the height of arrogance.

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As I wrote in my last posting to the same matter :

At first please clear descriptions of the economical situations in these countries. Then : At whose profit ? - Private little (or not so little ) income ? -

Or : do we not praise the Waldensians, who in all Europe sold therir handkerchiefs and mmittens - but were smuggling Bibles ? Did not SDA smuggle Bibles and mission material from the West into the DDR ? - Both endagered with prison or death sentence ! Didn´t Sister Rollett, secretary of the local Union conferenbe carry little Inge on her back (six miles !) out of Vienna to my fathers home in the Russian Zone, avoiding the checkpoints ? - her mother dead, her father a PW - an the preschool girl in danger of being deported ? Didn`t we have mimeogrpahed secret material for our Sabbathschool ?

And what did I hear from Herbert Stoeger, long ago responsible for the newly arsing "national ( - tribal) states , the former African colonies at the SED and how it was go get medical equipment there ? And rememeber Spectrums “Last Days in Saigon”

Secular, an European constructing enterprise : They also had to send two or thre or even more Mercedes S - Class, named as “construction machinery” to a South Amrerican country - to get the order for buliding the plant… Guess for whom !

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Perhaps the University should see if a computer manufacturing company could set up a plant on the University. That way they would be produced and sold locally. Dell, Apple, etc.

Not all national laws are in line with God’s law and therefore smuggling bibles and religious material where it is prohibited is completely fine. However, this is an attempt to circumvent national laws to prevent paying tax, and is essentially theft. Paying taxes is biblical, and so is not stealing. Therefore the government has every right to punish those involved. God blesses faithfulness, and a dollar blessed by God goes further than 10 dollars without His blessing.

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There is a lot more information on this issue that clearly presumes the leadership in Argentina is not guilty. Instead of checking information with dubious and unknown sources, try to talk to the people who really know what is happening.

By the way, Matias was freed today.

From a cursory read of this article, it seems to me that the government ‘crackdown’ or corruption in relation to excessively high tariffs on imported good in order to fatten their pockets, the citizens of Argentina have had to find innovative ways to cope.
Dear ChaplainSmith, I understand many readers usually are very passionate when sharing comments on this magazine. I don’t know whether you are Argentinian or not; but I need to let you know that Customs and the federal agency of public incomes does not charge tariff on imported goods nor use money from tax payers to fatten their pockets. The same way many countries protects their local workers and industries by discouraging the purchase of imported goods to support their economies, Argentine does it inside its boundaries.
Believe me, most of this money is used to invest in Education (for instance, to pay teacher salaries in ALL our Adventists institutions), scientific research, for elders and people with disabilities, etc.; I said “most” because I recognize in any country could be corrupt people in any level of the government that misuse this resources for their personal satisfaction.

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The article is written within decent journalistic standards for the US. You will note that the title says “alleged involvement” so there is not an assumption of guilt given.

You say that Matias was freed…which usually means nothing in the US except that he is not a flight risk or the crime was not murder, etc.

You have not cited any other “credible” sources yourself.

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