Ex-president charged with corruption
Kirchner has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, blasting accusations as ‘ big maneuver of political persecution’
Former Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was charged in a corruption case on Tuesday and slapped with a $630-million asset freeze over public tenders awarded to a businessman friend during her administration.
Kirchner, who was in office during 2007-15, was charged with illicit association and fraudulent administration for allegedly favoring construction magnate Lazaro Baez for public contracts in Patagonia, her southern political bastion.
Kirchner, 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 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.
It is the second set of charges brought against her this year.
Last month, 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.
The latest decision goes much further.
Judge Julian Ercolini ordered “an embargo on her assets of 10 billion pesos ($630 million)”, according to a Justice Ministry statement.
‘Neither friend nor associate’
Also charged were Baez, Kirchner’s planning minister Julio de Vido and former deputy public works minister Jose Lopez.
Lopez shot to infamy in Argentina in June when he was caught trying to hide 160 bags stuffed with more than $9 million in cash in a monastery garden.
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 in 2003-07.
Baez’s fortune grew considerably during the Kirchners’ three terms.
Prosecutors said his company won $2.2 billion worth of public contracts in Santa Cruz province during Cristina Kirchner’s administration — 78 percent of all public tenders for the province.
During preliminary hearings, Kirchner downplayed her relations to the businessman, saying “I am neither a friend nor an associate of Baez”.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, former Argentine president