Ex-Argentine president in court in central bank fraud probe

AP News
Posted: Apr 13, 2016 11:35 AM
Ex-Argentine president in court in central bank fraud probe

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday refused to testify in a state fraud probe, emerging from the courthouse to proclaim she was the victim of political persecution in a fiery speech similar to the ones she often gave in office.

Thousands of supporters were gathered outside the courthouse and cheered as Fernandez was ushered inside for closed-door questioning, and then again when she emerged a short time later. Supporters were holding signs that said "Don't touch Cristina!" and "We'll return" to power.

Judge Claudio Bonadio had called Fernandez to testify about her alleged role in the central bank's decision to sell dollars on the futures market at an artificially low price in the months before leaving office in December. At the time, there was a large gap between the official rate of the peso against the dollar and the rate on the booming black market.

Bonadio says selling dollars below market rate cost the state about $5.2 billion, and allowed buyers to make a lot of money on the transaction. Fernandez has denied any wrongdoing.

Fernandez, accompanied by her lawyer, gave Bonadio a written statement that said: "Only via an exercise in an abuse of judicial power was this case able to go forward."

In her speech, Fernandez blasted her critics and said she had nothing to hide.

"They can call me (to testify) 20 times. They can lock me up, but they won't make me stop saying what I think," she said to thousands of onlookers.

Bonadio has 10 days to decide whether to charge Fernandez or drop her from the probe. Fernandez, in power between 2007 and 2015, does not have immunity.

When she decided not to run for another position in government last year, a move that would have afforded her certain protections, supporters said it was an indication that she was innocent of the many allegations that have swirled around her and her administration for years.