Ex-pres­i­dent charged with cor­rup­tion

Kirch­ner has re­peat­edly de­nied any wrong­do­ing, blast­ing ac­cu­sa­tions as ‘ big ma­neu­ver of po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Buenos Aires

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”.

REUTERS

Cristina Fer­nan­dez de Kirch­ner, for­mer Ar­gen­tine pres­i­dent

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