The Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation on Friday revoked former president Carlos Menem’s prison sentence for for the controversial sale of the La Rural exhibition centre in 1991. Ex-economy minister Domingo Cavallo was also cleared.
Both had received sentences of over three years after being convicted in March earlier this year. Menem received three years and nine months, and Cavallo three years and six months.
After evaluating precedents and international treaties, Judges Eduardo Riggi, Juan Carlos Gemignani and Judge Liliana Catucci ruled that “the right to be tried without undue delay” could not have been “satisfied” as “a reasonable time” had passed since the controversial US$30-million sale in 1991 and their trial.
The sale of the Rural Society’s fairground building, which prosecutors believe should have been valued close to US$130 million, took place by decree, despite the property’s status as a public building whose sale required the approval of Congress.
The grounds of La Rural, which occupies 114,620 square metres of prime real estate in the capital, today hosts many major exhibitions and shows, including the famous International Book Fair of Buenos Aires.
The sell-off was part of the Menem government's State Reform package which began in 1989 and included, among other projects, the privatisation of more than 60 public companies.