Ex-Argentine President Sentenced to Seven Years

Published: 14 June 2013


An Argentine court has sentenced former President Carlos Menem to seven years in prison for smuggling weapons to Ecuador and Croatia in the 1990s. 

In 2011 a court absolved him of charges he violated international weapons embargoes. But in March of this year prosecutors won an appeal and Menem was found guilty of aggravated smuggling. The ex-president acknowledged signing secret decrees to export weapons to Venezuela and Panama, but claims he had no idea they would end up in Ecuador and Croatia.

The ruling stated that Menem was “co-author of the crime of smuggling, aggravated by the fact that it involved military weapons and required the intervention of public officials.” The higher court said much of the evidence had been mistakenly dismissed in his acquittal and there was no way weapons could have been smuggled without Menem’s participation and approval.

The court also determined that Menem’s brother-in-law, Emir Yoma, acted as his intermediary in the scheme.

"The only person with enough power to influence simultaneously, and over all these years, three different government ministries, their various agencies, the Argentine Army and even Congress, was the President of the Nation, Carlos Saul Menem, through Yoma," the appellate court said.

Menem, 82, served as president from 1989 to 1999, and is currently a senator. In Argentina, people over 70 are permitted to serve prison sentences at home. Menem also will remain free until the Supreme Court studies any appeal on the decision.

The court banned Menem from holding elective office for 14 years, asking the Senate to vote to remove the immunity he possesses as a member of Congress. However, the judges said the Senate should not vote until the decision becomes final. 

The trial judges also sentenced Menem’s former defense minister, Oscar Camilion to serve five and a half years in prison.