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July 15, 2015 Vol. 70 No. 13 Back to Bulletin Main Page

ARGENTINA: Groundbreaking Precedent Set in Criminal Landlord Liability Case

In a case addressing criminal landlord liability in connection with an illegal organization of street vendors in the City of Buenos Aires, the owner of a building being used in connection with the activities was charged as an accessory to the illegal organization.

The accusation was brought by the Complex Investigations Unit of the City of Buenos Aires Public Ministry (CIU). The CIU charged the building owner with organizing illegal lucrative activities on public space. The case (file 9078/14, supervised by Court of First Instance N° 4 of the City of Buenos Aires) was settled by way of plea bargain on November 27, 2014, with the defendant pleading guilty to all charges. It is the first case in Argentina in which a landlord was held criminally liable for the tenant’s actions.

The investigation pursued by the CIU uncovered an illegal organization of street vendors that occupied public sidewalks on major avenues of the City of Buenos Aires. Onsite surveillance showed that a nearby shopping center was used by street vendors for overnight storage. The owners of the individual stores within the shopping center charged a storage fee; in turn, store owners paid the shopping center manager a percentage of those fees. The shopping center manager did not own the building, but rented it from a third party.

Illegal street vendors, store owners and the shopping center manager were all charged as principals to the illegal organization of unauthorized lucrative activities on public space. In addition, the CIU charged the owner of the building as an accessory to the illegal organization.

The building owner did not take part in the shopping center management or day-to-day business; the building owner simply rented out the building. However, the CIU included the building owner in the accusation on the grounds that he knew or should have known that the tenant was engaged in an illegal activity and that the rent payments derived at least in part from criminal activities.

The precedent set by this case opens the possibility for trademark owners to include brick and mortar landlords as targets of their criminal anticounterfeiting actions.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2015 International Trademark Association