Good news and bad news for the Kirchner dynasty from Argentina’s courtrooms this week – while Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was committed to trial by Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio for the alleged misallocation of public works contracts, her son Máximo was acquitted of campaign-funding irregularities.
If the most famous name, the former two-term president is only one of 52 indicted in a public works graft trial originating from the famous “Cuadernos” corruption notebooks of a former Federal Planning chauffeur, Oscar Centeno, first published by La Nación 17 months ago.
Her co-defendants include various heavyweight businessmen such as Lázaro Báez (the almost exclusive beneficiary in the Santa Cruz homeland of the Kirchners), Carlos Wagner, Aldo Roggio, Ángelo Calcaterra (a cousin of ex-president Mauricio Macri), Gerardo Ferreyra, Juan Chediak and José Cartellone.
The pattern of good news and bad news even extended to the vice-president herself, since the court order calling for her to be remanded in custody ahead of the trial concerning the controversial 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with Iran was annulled.
Fernández de Kirchner could also benefit from a similar annulment in Bonadio’s public works corruption trial but this issue remains subject to a judicial tussle within the Cassation Appeals Court.
Last month that same court took Bonadio off the the case trying the vice-president for using the presidential air fleet to transfer furniture to her Patagonian hotel chain during her administration, following an initiative by Neuquén Senator Oscar Parrilli. The court perceived a “lack of neutrality” in Bonadio. Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello now takes up the case.
Meanwhile, Lower House Frente de Todos caucus leader Máximo Kirchner was one of a trio of La Cámpora top brass to benefit when Federal Judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría quashed a probe into irregular campaign funding by the Kirchnerite youth grouping.
In the process, the judge acquitted the Kirchner heir, Interior Minister Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro and deputy Andrés “Cuervo” Larroque (La Cámpora’s secretary-general) among others (including businessman and former Buenos Aires Herald owner Sergio Szpolski, who does not belong to the militant youth grouping).
The acquittal is reportedly grounded on doubts expressed by prosecutor Jorge Di Lello regarding the testimony of whistleblowers from the “Cuadernos” case, including former Public Works secretary José López (notorious for tossing bags containing some US$9 million over a convent wall in mid-2016). This could prove to be a precedent for other cases based on charges originating from the notebooks.
In general the judicial tide has tended to turn since the electoral victory of Frente de Todos, including the release of such iconic figures from the accusations of Kirchnerite corruption as former Federal Planning Minister Julio de Vido or the business partners Cristóbal López and Fabián de Sousa.