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In second push, CFK indicted for public works graft

Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner waves to supporters as she arrives at the Cuban Embassy, following the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Former president denies charges after Ercolini accuses her of running ‘corruption scheme’ with José López, De Vido and other ex-officials

Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was indicted on Tuesday on charges she ran “a corruption scheme” with former Public Works secretary José López — who was arrested in June while attempting to hide millions of dollars in a convent— and other ex-government officials from her administration including former Planning Minister Julio De Vido.

Federal judge Julián Ercolini alleged the accused had commited crimes “including the deliberate seizure of funds principally meant for public road works.”

Also named in the indictment was businessman Lázaro Báez, whose Austral Construcciones company allegedly benefitted from irregular contracts.

The alleged skimming of road projects took place in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, where the former president currently lives.

The judge’s order froze the defendants’ assets worth up to 10 billion pesos, though it is not clear if they have that much cash.

The ruling said the offences took place up until December 9, 2015, Fernández de Kirchner’s last day as president after eight years in office. No arrest warrant has been issued for her. López is already in jail on money-laundering charges.

Gregorio Dalbón, one of Fernández de Kirchner’s lawyers, posted on Twitter that the latest indictment would be appealed. De Vido labelled the charges as “a ruling that was tailor- made for Macri’s political needs.”

The former head of state denied any wrongdoing and accused the current government of using the courts to persecute her. In a message posted on Facebook and Twitter, she said that the government asked the judge a piece of news to go as “a headline,” to overshadow the news that former Finance minister Alfonso Prat Gay had left Mauricio Macri’s administration.

“They looked for (bank) accounts abroad. And they only found Macri’s and his family’s and officials. Furthermore, they keep finding them abroad and they are undeclared,” she wrote, adding that “they searched in our houses and there were no safes with dollars. So they called Ercolini.”

In the same message, the former president pointed out that Judge Ercolini’s wife works as a spokesperson for Justice Minister Germán Garavano.

NEW ACCUSATION

This week’s fresh charges is former president’s second indictment since she left office last year.

In May, Fernández de Kirchner was indicted for “malfeasance to the detriment of public administration.” During her administration, according to the charges, the Central Bank took money-losing positions in the futures market just before a widely expected devaluation of the peso currency.

The country was riveted in June when former public works secretary, José López, a key official to the former administration, was arrested while tossing bags stuffed with millions of dollars over the walls of a Catholic convent in General Rodríguez, a city in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

A gun-toting López started hurling the money into the Our Lady of Fátima convent when the elderly nuns inside were slow to answer the door in the early morning hours of June 14, according to a neighbour who witnessed what happened and called 911. A surveillance video shows the nuns finally welcoming Lopez and accepting the cash while paying little attention to the automatic rifle he had placed by the convent door.

According to estimates in local media outlets, López helped manage a US$90-billion budget between 2003 and 2015 as a public official.

When the convent incident first came to light, Fernández de Kirchner sought to distance herself from the former official, despite López having been a close confidant of her family for over two decades and having served in her government.

“I want to tell you all, that words such as rejection and condemnation ... are not enough. I want to know who were, in addition to engineer (José) López — the secretary of Public Works during my administration — responsible for what happened,” she said in a letter she posted on Facebook at the time, denying she gave him the cash. “It wasn’t me,” she wrote.

— Herald with AP, Reuters

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