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ARGENTINA | 17-09-2018 17:12

Notebooks graft case: Bonadio seeks Fernández de Kirchner's arrest

Federal judge charges former president and asks for her arrest for allegedly being the head of an illegal association that collected bribes in exchange for public work contracts.

Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio this afternoon indicted former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for allegedly being the head of an illegal association that collected bribes in exchange for public work contracts and requested her arrest.

He also set an embargo of four billion pesos (US$101 million) on her assets.

She is accused of having accepted tens of millions of dollars in bribes in the notorious "corruption notebooks" scandal that has rocked Argentina's political and business elites.

Fernández de Kirchner is currently a sitting senator for Buenos Aires Province, a post that grants her immunity from imprisonment, though not from prosecution. Senators would have to vote to strip her of that benefit, before her arrest could proceed. If such a decision is not taken, she would not be jailed, even if found guilty.

Analysts see such a move as unlikely. However, last month the Senate did vote to partially lift her immunity so that investigators could search her three luxury homes, a move that Fernández de Kirchner backed as well.

The decision by Bonadio, the judge leading the wide-ranging corruption investigation, was published by Argentina's official judicial news agency on Monday. 

According to judicial sources, Bonadio has also indicted former federal planning minister Julio De Vido (currently incarcerated), and fellow former officials Roberto Baratta and José López.

Business figures including Ángelo Calcaterra, Aldo Roggio, Gerardo Ferrerya, Luis Betnaza, Carlos Wagner, Enrique Pescarmona and Néstor Otero, among others, have also been charged, Perfil reported.

The former president has has already been called in for questioning twice by the federal judge. During her first two hearings she refused to answer Bonadio's questions, instead submitting a written statement, as is her right.

More than 30 people have been arrested in the case. They include business leaders and a number of former officials who served in Fernández de Kirchner's two-term 2007-2015 administration.

The case is based on an investigation by La Nación newspaper into alleged corruption over more than a decade during the governments of Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner.

Both Fernández de Kirchner, 65, and her late husband, whom she succeeded as president in 2007, are suspected of having accepted millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen. According to the investigation, bribes were delivered by a ministerial chauffeur to various locations, including the Kirchners' private residences over a 10-year period.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of US$160 million in bribes could have been stolen between 2005 and 2015.

At her last court appearance, Kirchner stressed her "categorical and strict denial" that she "committed any crime" or was involved in "any illicit activity."

Also facing trial in several other corruption cases, she has previously accused Bonadio of carrying out "judicial persecutions" aimed at derailing a possible presidential run next year.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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