Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has been acquitted in a corruption case known as the “K [Kirchnerite] Money Trail (Ruta del Dinero K), in which she was being investigated for money laundering accusations related to the dealings of businessman Lázaro Báez, who has already been convicted.
Following a lengthy investigation process, Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuan did not find evidence indicating that Kirchner was involved in Báez’s money laundering and recently decided to remove her from the allegations in the case. Since this meant that there were no longer allegations standing against her, Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello acquitted Kirchner.
“Without an accusation, there is no possible penal process,” said Casanello’s ruling.
Báez was accused of laundering millions of euros to banks in Switzerland through offshore companies in tax havens such as Panama. The alleged source of the funds: government contracts which had a significantly higher price tag than the true value of the services provided — with the difference then being sent abroad.
Kirchner stood accused of favoring Báez’s construction companies for public work projects in Santa Cruz province and profiting from the money laundering process. Today’s ruling means that she is no longer accused of money laundering in “K Money Trail” case, although she was convicted of fraudulently ensuring public works contracts go to Báez’s companies in a different case last year.
The legal investigation against Lázaro Báez began in April 2013 following an exposé of his money laundering practices by journalist and TV personality Jorge Lanata on his show Periodismo Para Todos (PPT). One of Báez’s former employees, Leonardo Fariña, was caught on secret camera talking about the money laundering transactions in 2012.
The case became popularly known as the “K Money Trail” thanks to the same show — the “K” moniker came from Báez’s ties to the Kirchners, which were heavily emphasized in the episodes dedicated to the subject.
Lázaro Báez was the main defendant alongside his sons and other accomplices, including Fariña. He was found guilty of money laundering in February 2021 and sentenced to 12 years in prison (reduced to 10 earlier this year). Fariña was given a reduced five-year sentence for acting as an informer.
Charges against Kirchner were incorporated into the case by prosecutor Marijuan in April 2016 following declarations by Fariña about a meeting that allegedly took place at the Olivos Presidential Residence in 2010 between Kirchner and Báez.
“[Báez] had just come from talking to the boss, who is Cristina Kirchner, and she had asked if he was sending money abroad because that’s what the United States embassy had told her,” Fariña said, according to today’s ruling. “He told me that he told her absolutely not but that we should be more prudent with our transactions.”
“With the focus placed on this dialogue and considering that all avenues for evidence gathering had been exhausted, [Marijuan] closed the investigation which had been open for seven years,” said the ruling.
Although she was acquitted of money laundering charges, Kirchner was found guilty of fraudulently awarding public works contracts during her terms as president — specifically, 51 projects awarded to Báez known as the Vialidad case. According to a lengthy document published by federal court judges, the Kirchners “protected” and “were complicit” in the dealings by using state institutions to “guarantee the unlimited business activity controlled by Lázaro Báez.”
Kirchner has consistently denied wrongdoing in the Vialidad case and pointed out that Congress approved the public works projects she managed and that awards had been made through public bids where each province was responsible. Her lawyers made an appeal in April calling for her acquittal.
The vice president has described the Vialidad proceedings as “lawfare” — a term used by the ruling coalition to describe what they consider to be persecution through the legal system in connivance with the opposition and friendly media magnates.
She has yet to comment on her acquittal in the “K Money Trail” case.