Friday, January 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Argentina Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner sentenced to 6 years in prison for corruption

The court also ruled that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner be banned from public office for life after being found guilty of fraudulent administration.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CN) —  A federal court in Argentina sentenced the current Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to six years in prison and a life ban from public office after finding her guilty of corruption.

The court found her guilty of fraudulent administration during her time as president from 2007 to 2015 in awarding public works contracts to friend and businessman Lázaro Báez, who was also given a six-year sentence as part of the same case. Last year, Báez was sentenced to 12 years in a separate case for money laundering.

The prosecutors said that they found irregularities in multiple public work tenders awarded in the southern province of Santa Cruz, where the vice president had been a deputy and senator. It is the first time a sitting vice president has been convicted of a crime.

The federal prosecutor, Diego Luciani, who had asked for 12 years, described it as “probably the biggest corruption operation the country has known.” Public works were found to be overpriced with many of the construction projects never completed. “There was a diversion of huge sums of money to Lázaro Báez,” Luciani said, adding that “it was sought to cover up the lack of capacity of the company.”

Although de Kirchner will avoid jail due to her immunity as a lawmaker and will launch an appeal, the historic case has highlighted the deep political division in the country.

Under the stifling morning sun, crowds of supporters of the vice president started to gather outside the Palace of Justice, enclosed by barricades and a reinforced federal police presence. The neoclassical building houses the Supreme Court as well as the lower courts, from where the verdict was read out just after 5:00 p.m.

De Kirchner, who is facing other corruption and money laundering charges, has continuously denied them and described them as politically motivated and part of the lawfare waged against her by economic powers and mainstream media. 

The vice president spoke from her office in Congress immediately after the verdict was read. “They are a parallel state. It is the judicial mafia,” she said before adding that, “they want me in prison or dead.” On Sept. 1, de Kirchner survived an assassination attempt when a gunman approached her among a crowd of supporters and pulled the trigger but failed to fire.

President Alberto Fernández spoke in support of de Kirchner.

“Today in Argentina, an innocent person has been convicted. Today, I accompany and stand in solidarity with Cristina, knowing that she is the victim of an absolutely unfair persecution. All good men and women who love democracy and the rule of law must stand by her side," Fernández said.

The vice president has strongly questioned the validity of the case, stating that the charges were brought up in a previous case in Santa Cruz and that she couldn’t be tried twice for the same fact. The Supreme Court rejected the argument in June, stating that the "double criminal prosecution is not compromised since, as the appellant herself maintains, she was not a party to the proceedings in the local court.”

Left and center-left leaders in the region also support the vice president, condemning the trial as orchestrated by the right-wing, the justice system and the media. The Puebla Group, made up of left-wing and progressive movements, stated that the trial was “motivated by the dark political interests of powerful economic conglomerates.”

Prosecutors also handed out sentences to seven other people involved in the case, ranging between six and three and a half years. Among them was José López, the former head of public works who became famous in 2016 after footage emerged of him trying to hide large bags of cash inside a nunnery.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...