Former Argentine leader Kirchner charged in corruption case

Former Argentine leader Kirchner charged in corruption case

Former Argentine leader Kirchner charged in corruption case Former Argentine president Cristina Kirchner was charged in a corruption case Dec. 27 and slapped with a $630-million asset freeze over public tenders awarded to a businessman friend during her administration.

Kirchner, who was in office from 2007 to 2015, was charged with illicit association and fraudulent administration for allegedly favoring construction magnate Lazaro Baez for public contracts in Patagonia, her southern political bastion.

The former president, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, has blasted the accusations as “a big maneuver of political persecution.” 

It is the latest legal trouble for a generation of leftist leaders who dominated Latin American politics until recently.

Kirchner, 63, joins Brazil’s former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff on a list of so-called “pink tide” leaders facing corruption charges or allegations of abusing power.

Judge Julian Ercolini ordered “an embargo on her assets of 10 billion pesos [$630 million],” according to a justice ministry statement.

Also charged were Baez; Kirchner’s planning minister at the time of the tenders, Julio de Vido; and former deputy public works minister Jose Lopez.

The country was riveted in June when Lopez was arrested while tossing bags stuffed with around $9 million over the walls of a Catholic convent on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. 

A gun-toting Lopez started hurling the money into the Our Lady of Fatima convent when the elderly nuns inside were slow to answer the door in the early morning hours of June 14, according to a neighbor who witnessed what happened and called 911. 

A surveillance video shows the nuns finally welcoming Lopez and accepting the cash while paying little attention to the automatic rifle he had placed by the convent door.

Baez, the owner of the Austral group conglomerate, has been in jail since April. He was close to Kirchner and her late husband Nestor, who preceded her as president from 2003 to 2007.    

Baez’s fortune grew considerably during the Kirchners’ three terms.

This is the second set of charges brought against Kirchner this year.

In November, an appeals court upheld a decision to charge her with damaging the national finances during her time in office.

In that case, she is accused of ordering the central bank to sell dollar futures at artificially low prices near the end of her term, causing Argentina to lose hundreds of millions of dollars.

She had already been hit with a $1 million asset freeze in that case.