Court in Argentina Sentences VP Kirchner to 6 Years in Prison for Corruption
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s former president and current vice president, was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison and banned for life from holding public office, after a court found her guilty of awarding public works contracts to a friend.
Kirchner was found guilty in a US$1 billion fraud case related to public works along with seven former officials and Lázaro Báez, her friend and a business associate of her late husband, former president Néstor Kirchner.
Earlier this year, prosecutors requested up to a 12-year prison sentence for Kirchner. After the verdict was read, Kirchner said she would not be a candidate for anything. “The real sentence is disqualification from holding public office,” she said.
According to investigators, Kirchner and former aides embezzled millions from state coffers by favoring the companies of Group Báez in road construction contracts awarded in the Santa Cruz province.
The scheme allegedly awarded nearly 80 percent of road contracts in Santa Cruz worth more than $270 million to Lázaro Báez’s conglomerate, after Néstor Kirchner allegedly turned Báez from a former bank employee into a contractor.
Báez, who was convicted of money laundering last year and is currently under house arrest, was sentenced to six years alongside Cristina Kirchner.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Argentina investigated multiple tenders related to this case and found irregularities in at least 51 of them, including lack of safeguards to prevent overcharges, payments in advance for work that was never done, and issues related to changed work orders and term extensions.
Prosecutors described the group as a pyramid structure led by high-ranking and other public officials who used their positions and political power to carry out the schemes.
Shortly after Argentinian judges pronounced sentence, the Human Rights Secretariat in Argentina stated that Kirchner’s sentence constitutes “an attack on the democratic process.”
“The ruling handed down is the result of a judicial process riddled with irregularities and violations of due process,” the statement said. “It constitutes a clear curtailment of the political rights of the vice president and the electorate,” which “seeks to politically outlaw her for the upcoming elections.”
Argentina’s current President Alberto Fernández weighed in on Twitter.
“Today, in Argentina, an innocent person has been sentenced. Someone whom the powers that be tried to stigmatize through the media and persecuted through complacent judges who ride around in private jets and luxury mansions on weekends,” he wrote.
Several other politicians from Latin America expressed their solidarity with Kirchner. The court is to explain the reasons behind the sentences next year.