Today's Paper Arkansas News Legislature Newsletters Core Values Sports Public Notices Archive Obits Puzzles Opinion Story Ideas
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Argentine vice president convicted of fraud

by ALMUDENA CALATRAVA The Associated Press | December 7, 2022 at 4:45 a.m.
Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, gather outside a federal court building where judges are expected to announce the verdict and sentence in a conspiracy and fraud trial against her, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Fernandez is accused of running a criminal organization that defrauded the state of $1 billion during her presidency through public works contracts granted to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was convicted and sentenced Tuesday to 6 years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office for a fraud scheme that embezzled $1 billion through public works projects during her presidency.

A three-judge panel found the Peronist leader guilty of fraud, but rejected a charge of running a criminal organization, for which the sentence could have been 12 years in prison. It's the first time an Argentine vice president has been convicted of a crime while in office.

The sentence isn't firm until appeals are decided, a process that could take years. She'll remains immune from arrest meanwhile, as long as she can keep getting elected.

Speaking after the verdict, she described herself as the victim of a "judicial mafia."

Her supporters vowed to paralyze the country with a nationwide strike. They clogged downtown Buenos Aires and marched on the federal court building, beating drums and shouting as they pressed against police barriers.

Fernandez roundly denied all the accusations. Argentina's dominant leader this century, she was accused of improperly granting public works contracts to a construction magnate closely tied to her family.

The verdict is certain to deepen fissures in the South American nation, where politics can be a blood sport and the 69-year-old populist leader is either loved or hated.

Prosecutors said Fernandez fraudulently directed 51 public works projects to Lazaro Baez, a construction magnate and early ally of her and her husband Nestor Kirchner, who served as president from 2003-2007 and died suddenly in 2010.

Baez and members of her 2007-2015 presidential administration were among a dozen others accused in the conspiracy. The panel sentenced Baez and her public works secretary, Jose Lopez, to six years. Most of the others got lesser sentences.

Prosecutors Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola said the Baez company was created to embezzle revenues through improperly bid projects that suffered from cost overruns and in many cases were never completed. The company disappeared after the Kirchners' 12 years in power, they said.

In Argentina, judges in such cases customarily pronounce verdicts and sentences first and explain how they reached their decision later, but given the public pressure in this case, they could offer some details before the panel's full decision is read out loud in February. After that, the verdict can be appealed up to the Supreme Court, a process that could take years.

  photo  A supporter of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, waits outside a federal court building where judges are expected to announce the verdict and sentence in a conspiracy and fraud trial against her, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. Fernandez is accused of running a criminal organization that defrauded the state of $1 billion during her presidency through public works contracts granted to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 
  photo  A man walks next to a graffiti that reads in Spanish: "Cristina is hope", in reference to Vice President Cristina Kirchner, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Dic. 5, 2022. A judge will determine Tuesday whether to sentence Cristina Kirchner for allegedly leading a criminal conspiracy that irregularly awarded public works contracts to a friend and ally. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 
  photo  Riot police flank the exterior of a federal court building after judges announced the sentence and verdict in a conspiracy and fraud trial against Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. The court sentenced Fernandez to 6 years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office. Fernandez is accused of running a criminal organization that defrauded the state of $1 billion during her presidency through public works contracts granted to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 
  photo  Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, cry after hearing the verdict and sentence in a conspiracy and fraud trial against Fernandez, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. The court sentenced Fernandez to 6 years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office. Fernandez is accused of running a criminal organization that defrauded the state of $1 billion during her presidency through public works contracts granted to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 
  photo  Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, gather outside the court where judges are expected to announce the verdict in a corruption case against her in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. The banner reads in Spanish "Everyone with Cristina." Three judges will soon announce their verdict in the corruption trial of Fernandez, accused of running a criminal organization that fraudulently directed about $1 billion in public works projects to her longtime ally when she was president. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 
  photo  Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, rally outside the court where judges are expected to announce the verdict in a corruption case against her in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. The banner reads in Spanish "Everyone with Cristina." Three judges will soon announce their verdict in the corruption trial of Fernandez, accused of running a criminal organization that fraudulently directed about $1 billion in public works projects to her longtime ally when she was president. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 
  photo  Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez waves as he exits a meeting during the Mercosur trade bloc summit, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico)
 
 
  photo  FILE - Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez greets supporters as she leaves her home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 23, 2022. Federal court judges are preparing on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, to announce their verdict in the corruption trial of Fernandez who is accused of running a criminal organization that defrauded the state of $1 billion during her presidency through public works contracts granted to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)
 
 
  photo  Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, react after hearing the verdict and sentence in a conspiracy and fraud trial against Fernandez, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. The court sentenced Fernandez to 6 years in prison and was issued a lifetime ban from holding public office. Fernandez is accused of running a criminal organization that defrauded the state of $1 billion during her presidency through public works contracts granted to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
 
 

Print Headline: Argentine vice president convicted of fraud

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT