Argentina ex-leader Fernandez in court over corruption case

AP News
Posted: Oct 31, 2016 4:48 PM
Argentina ex-leader Fernandez in court over corruption case

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez went before a judge on Monday as part of an investigation into alleged corruption in the granting of public works contracts.

Thousands of sympathizers cheered Fernandez outside the courthouse in Buenos Aires as she entered closed-door questioning. She later told reporters that she is a victim of political persecution by Argentina's new president, Mauricio Macri, and denied accusations that she abused her power while in office.

"This is all major silliness," Fernandez said. "We're asking for the case to be nullified."

Federal Judge Julian Ercolini called Fernandez to testify in an investigation of alleged money laundering by millionaire businessman Lazaro Baez.

Baez was arrested this year and accused of embezzling and money laundering. He received public works contracts during the 12 years that Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, were in power.

The case was launched after a 2013 journalistic report accused Baez of using his companies to launder money for the presidential couple.

Prosecutors recently broadened the investigation based on new evidence involving lucrative contracts granted to a company headed by Baez in Santa Cruz province, where Kirchner served as governor before he became president and where the family owns several hotels and other properties.

Since Fernandez ended her term in December, Macri's government has promised to crack down on the corruption that has long plagued Argentina.

"Argentines want an end to impunity," Macri said Monday while inaugurating a government project before Fernandez appeared before the court.

Fernandez said that she welcomes the investigation of all public works contracts. She also accused Macri's administration of using her to create a diversion from Argentina's economic troubles.

Judge Ercolini must decide in the next 10 days whether to press charges against Fernandez or dismiss the accusations.

Fernandez is also the subject of investigations into money laundering, possible illegal enrichment and state fraud as part of her government's handling of the dollar futures market. She has denied any wrongdoing.


Associated Press journalist Paul Byrne contributed to this report.