Buenos Aires Times

argentina CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

K-money route graft case: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appears in court

Tuesday's appearance before Judge Sebastian Casanello relates to money-laundering case known as 'the K-money route.' It involves allegations that some US$60 million of capital was expatriated and then repatriated in an attempt to legitimise it.

Tuesday 18 September, 2018
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner leaves court.
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner leaves court. Foto:EITAN ABRAMOVICH-AFP

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Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, former president of Argentina and sitting senator for Buenos Aires Province, appeared in court on Tuesday to answer questions pertaining to the so-called 'K-money route' case, barely a day after federal judge Claudio Bonadio had asked that her legislative immunity be lifted to allow for her pre-trial arrest for another corruption case.

The 65-year-old former head of state has recently appeared twice before Bonadio for the case in the federal judge's care, in which she is accused of having received tens of millions of dollars in bribes.

Tuesday's appearance before Judge Sebastian Casanello was related to a money-laundering case known as "the K-money route." It involves allegations that some US$60 million of capital was expatriated and then repatriated in an attempt to legitimise it.

"Not only do I know nothing about this transaction but there is no evidence that links me to it," Fernández de Kirchner said in a written submission to Casanello, as is her custom is such cases.

The money was allegedly moved around between 2010 and 2013, when Fernández de Kirchner was president. She succeeded her husband Néstor Kirchner as president in 2007, before he later passed away.

The case centres around former bank cashier and Kirchnerite ally Lázaro Báez, who created a business empire in Santa Cruz, some 2,500-kilometres south of the capital, where he won tenders for oil and public works projects during the Kirchners' presidencies, spanning from 2003 to 2015.

Báez owns 25 ranches comprising 400,000 hectares in the southern Patagonia region, as well as dozens of properties and landholdings.

Ten days ago, one of his properties was excavated in search of buried containers believed to be full of money, but nothing was found.

A defiant Fernández de Kirchner said in her statement that authorities could track her movements, tap her telephone calls and "dig up the whole of Argentine Patagonia" because "they will never find anything to implicate me as I never took any illicit money."

'Unprecedented'

Fernández de Kirchner said nothing to the press throngs outside the Comodoro Py federal courthouse but stated on Twitter that it was her eighth appearance before a judge, describing her situation as "unprecedented."

Her last two audiences with Bonadio related to the "corruption notebooks" scandal in which a ministerial chauffeur kept meticulous records of millions of dollars of bribes paid by businessmen to government officials to win public works contracts.

Bonadio asked on Monday that Fernández de Kirchner's immunity be lifted so she can be remanded in custody. The Senate voted last month to partially lift Kirchner's parliamentary immunity so her three luxury homes could be searched for evidence that she took bribes. As a senator, she retains immunity from imprisonment, although not from prosecution.

The "corruption notebooks" case has implicated more than a dozen former government officials and 30 elite businessmen. Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of US$160 million in bribes was handed over between 2005 and 2015.

Fernández de Kirchner is under investigation in seven corruption cases in total, but claims she is the victim of "judicial persecutions" aimed at derailing her bid to run for a third presidential term in next year's elections.

She has compared her lot to that of Brazil's jailed leftist ex-president Luiz Iáacio Lula da Silva, currently serving 12 years for having accepted a seaside apartment as a bribe.

- TIMES/AFP

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