Monday, July 4, 2022

ARGENTINA | 03-09-2018 18:28

Fernández de Kirchner testifies for second time in notebooks graft case

Fernández de Kirchner submitted a letter to the judge reiterating her "categorical and strict denial" that she "committed any crime" or was involved in "any illicit activity."

Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appeared in court before federal Judge Claudio Bonadio on Monday for the second time, in relation to infamous 'bribery notebooks' corruption case that has rocked the nation's political and business elites.

Two weeks after Argentina's Senate voted to partially lift Fernández de Kirchner's congressional immunity – which she holds as a sitting senator for Buenos Aires Province – so that investigators could search her three homes for evidence linking her to graft case, she was back before Bonadio, the controversial judge leading the corruption investigation.

She was questioned for half an hour on Monday morning at the Comodoro Py courthouse, having also been interviewed last month, on August 13. Bonadio decided to call her to testify another time, after expanding his investigation back to 2003. 

A number of other former Kirchnerite officials and allied businesspeople –  including former federal planning minister Julio de Vido, businessman Sergio Szpolski, and former La Cámpora chiefs, Eduardo De Pedro, Andrés Larroque, and José Ottavis – have also been summoned.

Fernández de Kirchner submitted a letter to the judge reiterating her "categorical and strict denial" that she "committed any crime" or was involved in "any illicit activity." She also repeated her claim that the Mauricio Macri administration was moving against her in order to distract attention away from the economic "debacle."

The 65-year-old, who served as president from 2007 to 2015 after succeeding her late husband Néstor Kirchner, is suspected of having accepted millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen in exchange for public works contracts.

More than a dozen former government officials and 30 elite businessman are implicated in the case first reported by La Nación newspaper on August 1, claiming that millions in bribes were delivered by a ministerial chauffeur to Kirchner's residences, both during her presidency and her husband's. 

Kirchner, though, remains defiant and told Bonadio in her letter that his investigation had "destroyed each and every guarantee that makes up due process" without producing "the minimum proof to justify the crimes with which I have scandalously been accused."

Facing trial in several other corruption cases, she has previously accused Bonadio of carrying out "judicial persecutions" aimed at derailing a possible run for the presidency next year.

She has compared her case to that of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is serving a 12-year jail sentence for accepting a bribe and was on Friday barred from standing in next month's presidential election.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of US$160 million in bribes was handed over during a 10-year period from 2005-15, allegedly from business leaders to politicians in exchange for public works contracts, all meticulously recorded by a government driver.


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