Argentina ex-President Kirchner hit with more corruption charges

Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was indicted on Monday on charges that her administration accepted bribes from construction companies in exchange for public works contracts, according to an indictment released by a federal judge.

The former president is accused of heading a network that received bribes in exchange for lucrative public works contracts during both her presidency – from 2007 to 2015 – and that of her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, who led Argentina from 2003 to 2007.

In a 500-page ruling on Monday, federal judge Claudio Bonadio also ordered Kirchner’s arrest, saying that she could attempt to “obstruct the judicial process” if free.

Kirchner, now a senator, has parliamentary immunity which prevents detention but not prosecution.

Last year, a request to strip Kirchner of her immunity as part of a separate case failed. But in August senators voted to partially lift her immunity, allowing apartments belonging to the 65-year-old to be searched.

In a series of statements on Twitter on Tuesday, Kirchner repeated her claims that the inquiry is a campaign against her orchestrated by the country’s current leader, Mauricio Macri, and alleged that a judge had confirmed was no evidence against her.  

“The judge who called me acknowledged on four occasions that there is no fact or proof that links me to [the investigation],” Kirchner said. “It’s an inquiry on demand”. 

Mounting charges

Monday’s visit marks the eighth time Kirchner has been called to give a statement before court as part of a wide-ranging corruption inquiry into her and her late husband’s presidencies. 

The investigation began after Argentine daily newspaper La Nacion received copies of eight notebooks kept by a ministerial chauffeur Oscar Centeno, that cataloged bags of cash amounting to millions of dollars allegedly delivered to government offices and the Kirchners’ residence between 2005 and 2015.

Kirchner is already facing other corruption charges, as well as an indictment over purportedly helping cover up the alleged Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, in which 86 people were killed. 

A slew of former officials have also been charged, including former ministers from Kirchner’s administrations, several former secretaries of state, a former federal judge and more than 20 business leaders.

Kirchner has always maintained her innocence, asserting that she is the victim of persecution by her successor, Macri, who took office in 2015.

When asked if Kirchner should go to jail in a December CNN interview, Macri said: “The ex-president has to be accountable to justice. The judges will decide, the president does not have to get involved in that.”

Despite the various indictments, Kirchner remains popular in the country, thanks in large part to generous welfare spending during her presidency. She is widely expected to run for president in next year’s elections. 

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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