HomeNewsBriefArgentina Ex-President Faces Mounting Corruption Charges
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Argentina Ex-President Faces Mounting Corruption Charges

ARGENTINA / 5 APR 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

The former president of Argentina was indicted on charges of leading a money laundering scheme while in office, yet another legal blow to the ex-leader who is facing mounting corruption charges and allegations.

Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015) was officially indicted on April 4 by Argentine judge Claudio Bonadio for allegedly leading a money laundering ring, reported Clarín.

Charges were also formally brought against the ex-president's two children, Maximo and Florencia, as well as businessmen Cristóbal López and Lázaro Báez, the latter of whom is currently incarcerated and awaiting trial for a separate public funds embezzlement case.

A total of 21 individuals have been accused in the money laundering case, including the sons of Báez.

According to authorities, the Kirchner family real estate company, "Los Sauces," is at the heart of the laundering of bribes received by the former president in exchange for awarding public contracts while in office. Los Sauces was set up in 2006 by Cristina Kirchner, her son and her late husband and former President Néstor Kirchner.

In exchange for being awarding public contracts, the businessmen allegedly rented properties owned by the Kirchner real estate company as a means of paying bribes. According to a separate Clarín article, López and his associate Fabían De Sousa rented 493 Kirchner properties starting in 2009, which they justified by arguing that it was more practical and cheaper than other rental contracts.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina

In addition to finding sufficient evidence for indicting the former president, Bonadio also froze 130 million pesos (roughly $8.5 million) from Kirchner's accounts. The same amount was also frozen from her son Maximo's account as well as Báez's. The former president's daughter, her niece, López and his associate De Sousa each also had 100 million pesos (approximately $6.5 million) frozen. All individuals involved in the case are prohibited from leaving the country.

On Twitter, Kirchner denied being guilty of the charges, arguing that there is no evidence of wrongdoing and describing the indictment as a "persecution."

The former head of state also denounced Bonadio's decision to recuse himself from the case. The judge asked that the legal procedure be annexed to that of another corruption case, referred to as the "K Money Route" (Ruta del Dinero K), which also involves Kirchner and Báez and which is being handled by Judge Julián Ercolini.

InSight Crime Analysis

Cristina Kirchner has not yet been convicted of any crime. But the numerous corruption cases to which the former president has been linked suggest the existence of a widespread and systematic siphoning of public funds during her term.

The former president is implicated in three corruption cases involving the awarding of public contracts, and she has been indicted in two of those. But the Los Sauces investigation marks the first time that Kirchner is accused of actually heading a criminal scheme.

Kirchner has previously been indicted for corruption charges in the vast "K Money Route" case previously mentioned, revolving around public works contracts awarded to Báez in the Santa Cruz province. Kirchner is accused of criminal association in that scheme, which reportedly involved $650 million in contracts.

SEE ALSO: Elites and Organized Crime

The scandal has mainly focused on a dozen individuals, including the former president and various ministers as well as business tycoons such as Báez and López, who are now being referred to as the "K businessmen" ("empresarios K"). But the actual number of individuals involved could be much greater, as local officials, businessmen and their relatives are increasingly being pulled into the expanding investigations.

Although not indicted, Kirchner is also under investigation in yet another corruption case involving Báez and López renting property owned by the former president's family. According to La Nación, this case is closely linked to the Los Sauces one.

In addition, Kirchner faces a third indictment for allegedly attempting to manipulate the exchange rate between the Argentine peso and the US dollar via the central bank. Moreover, the former president has also been accused of covering up the possible involvement of Iran in a 1994 terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires, a case which has been a source of intense controversy over the past two decades.

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