Carmine Boccuzzi (C) and lawyers for Argentina leave Federal Court
New York - AFP
A US judge rebuked Argentina on Wednesday for seeking to evade an order to make good on its debts and for labelling hedge funds who hold the country's bonds "extortionists".
Last year Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Argentina to pay the hedge funds and this week the Supreme Court declined to re-examine his position, infuriating Argentina.
Griesa branded President Cristina Kirchner's apparent plan to avoid paying them illegal.
Kirchner said late Monday that the country could not pay the hedge funds, who refused to join a restructuring of the country's debt and want to be paid the full $1.3 billion face value of the bonds they hold.
"Argentina has shown a more than clear will to pay, but there is a difference between negotiation and extortion," Kirchner said after the Supreme Court decision.
Griesa called her speech "unfortunate".
"Now that really does not give me confidence in a good faith commitment to pay all the obligations of the Republic," he said.
Responding to a request by NML Capital and other hedge funds that sued Argentina for payment, Griesa lifted a stay, or freeze, on his court order last year for the country to pay up.
The stay had been in place while the parties waited to see if the Supreme Court would accept Argentina's appeal for it to review the case.
But the court turned the appeal back, and by lifting the stay Wednesday, Griesa started the debt clock ticking.
Argentina is scheduled to make debt payments by June 30, to both holders of the restructured debt and now the hedge funds. If it does not pay, a 30 day grace period gives it until the end of July before it will be seen as in default again.
Lawyers for the country told the court a team would travel to New York next week to hold talks with the hedge funds.
Robert Cohen, representing NML, said they are "happy to talk".
"In six weeks much bigger problems have been solved. We're prepared to sit with them."
But Griesa made clear he was worried new negotiations were just another attempt by Argentina to stall, in a case that dates back more than a decade.
"You can talk about negotiations. But I believe there has to be a legal mechanism to prevent what I'm talking about, because we do not want another charade.