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ARGENTINA | 23-08-2018 15:43

Investigators search Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's home in Recoleta

A crowd of journalists, onlookers and supporters of the former president gather outside while at least a dozen police officers and other officials enter to carry out search the residence.

Investigators have carried out a raid at an apartment owned by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as part of the 'notebooks' case investigating widespread corruption.

Fernández de Kirchner, who is now a sitting senator for Buenos Aires Province, has been accused of orchestrating a bribe scheme in the granting of public works contracts that has ensnared many of Argentina's former officials and business elite.

She was among the 67 senators who approved the raids on three of her own properties late Wednesday night, following a request by Federal Judge
Claudio Bonadio.

But it was unclear what investigators hoped to find as they carried out a raid with the assistance of a K-9 unit in an apartment located in the Recoleta neighbourhood in Buenos Aires City. Officials were inside at least three hours.

Searches will also take place at two houses the former president owns in Santa Cruz province, her political base. 

A crowd of journalists, curious onlookers and supporters of the former president gathered outside while at least a dozen police officers and other officials wearing white jumpsuits and blue latex gloves entered to search the residence.

The alleged scheme is based on an investigation by the La Nación newspaper into corruption during the administrations of Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner. The investigation found that Oscar Centeno, a driver who helped deliver bags of cash to former officials in exchange for public contracts from 2005 to 2015, had kept detailed notebooks recording details of alleged wrongdoing. Fernández de Kirchner's private address and the Olivos presidential residence were among the addresses detailed in the notes.

Several businessmen have admitted to paying bribes under a plea-bargain agreement, and so far, at least 16 people have been arrested in the case. They include leaders of construction companies and former officials who served under Fernández de Kirchner's 2007-2015 administrations.

The former president's senatorial seat gives her immunity from prosecution. She denies any wrongdoing and says that she is being "politically persecuted" by Bonadio, a judge she says is biased against her and is being influenced by President Mauricio Macri, in order to distract Argentines from the country's economic turmoil.

"“Do you really think Bonadio is impartial? There are six cases against me and five are headed by him," the former president said in the Senate on Wednesday night.

Argentina has one of the world's highest inflation rates and Macri's administration has been forced to seek out a US$50-billion financing deal with the International Monetary Fund following a sharp devaluation of its peso currency.

Credit agencies and analysts have said that the scandal involving Fernández de Kirchner has eroded trust and could affect investments in Latin America's third-largest economy.

Gregorio Dalbon, one of Fernández de Kirchner's attorneys, told The Associated Press that "media shows seek to hide the reality of Macri's government" and the country was "falling apart into pieces."

- TIMES/AP

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