Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernéndez sentenced to 6 years in prison for $1 billion fraud


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernéndez was convicted Tuesday and sentenced to six years in prison and a lifetime ban from public office for a fraud scheme that embezzled $1 billion from public works projects during her presidency.

A three-judge panel found the Peronist leader guilty of fraud but dismissed a charge of running a criminal organization, which could have carried a 12-year prison sentence. It was the first time an Argentine vice president had been convicted of a crime while serving as vice president.

Fernéndez protested the verdict, describing himself as a victim of the “judicial mafia”. But he also later announced that he would not run for president next year, a post he previously held from 2007-2015.

The sentence is not final until appeals are decided, a process that can take years. He will not be arrested at this time.

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Supporters of Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernandez demonstrate after her sentencing in front of the National Congress on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires.


Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner try to remove a wall outside the Comodoro Py courthouse after a federal court found her guilty in a corruption case on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez try to remove a wall outside the Commodore Pi courthouse after a federal court found her guilty in a corruption case on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Supporters of Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner protest in front of the Comodoro Py courthouse on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Supporters of Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernandez protest in front of the Comodoro Py courthouse on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


A woman is seen crying as she hears the sentencing and sentencing of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A woman is seen crying as she hears the sentencing and sentencing of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Fernéndez supporters have vowed to paralyze the country with a nationwide strike. They blocked downtown Buenos Aires and marched to the federal courthouse, beating drums and pushing against police barriers.

Fernéndez vehemently denied all the allegations. Argentina’s reigning leader this century has been accused of improperly awarding public works contracts to a construction magnate with close family ties.

The verdict is sure to deepen fissures in the South American nation, where politics can be a blood sport and the 69-year-old populist leader is loved or hated.

Supporters of Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez gather outside Congress following her sentencing on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Supporters of Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernandez gather outside Congress following her sentencing on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
AP

President Alberto Fernéndez, who is not related to his vice president, said on Twitter that he was innocent and that his conviction was “the result of a trial that disregarded the minimum forms of due process.”

Prosecutors allege that Fernéndez, who served as president from 2003 to 2007 and who died suddenly in 2010, conspired to defraud 51 public works projects to construction tycoon Lézaro Beez, an early ally of her and her husband, Nestor Kirchner. directed with

Beez and members of Fernández’s 2007-2015 presidential administration were among dozens of others charged in the conspiracy. The panel also sentenced Beez and his public affairs secretary, José Lépes, to six years in prison. Most of the others received lesser punishments.

Prosecutors Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola said Beez was set up to siphon off profits through flawed bid projects that inflated costs and were, in many cases, never completed. According to them, the company disappeared after the Kirchners were in power for 12 years.

Cristina Fernéndez fraudulently directed 51 public works projects to Lézaro Beez, prosecutors said.
Cristina Fernéndez fraudulently directed 51 public works projects to Lézaro Baez, prosecutors said.
AFP via Getty Images

In Argentina, in such cases, judges usually first announce the verdict and sentence and then explain what was decided. The panel’s full decision is expected in February. The sentence can then be appealed to the Supreme Court, a process that can take years.

Fernéndez announced on his YouTube channel that he will not seek another term when his term as vice president expires on December 10, 2023. “I am not a candidate for anything, I am not a president or a senator. . My name will not appear on any ballot. “I will finish on December 10 and go home,” he said.

Until his appeal is decided, Fernéndez is free to run for any elected office — from a seat in Congress to the presidency — and gain immunity from election, politicians and analysts say.

A supporter of Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez cries holding an Argentine flag after hearing the verdict outside the federal courthouse on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
A supporter of Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernandez cries holding an Argentine flag after hearing the verdict outside the federal courthouse on December 6, 2022 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
AP

“Cristina is always surprised,” pollster Roberto Buckman, director of Argentina’s Public Opinion Research Center, said of her announcements. But “he will continue to fight,” he added. “He puts himself in the center of the struggle and says that he will not hide.â€

He said it remains to be seen whether the Peronist sector will try to push Fernéndez to reconsider his decision.

Patricio Giusto, director of consulting firm Diagnóstico PolÃtico, predicted that Fernéndez would deepen his “strategy of victimization and self-alignment” with left-wing politician Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, who was elected president of Brazil after the trial. abolished prison terms for corruption.

A supporter of Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez kisses a photo of her on a banner outside the Comodoro Py courthouse in Buenos Aires on December 6, 2022.
A supporter of Argentina’s Vice President Cristina Fernandez kisses a photo of her on a banner outside the Comodoro Py courthouse in Buenos Aires on Dec. 6, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images

During the trial, the vice president called himself a victim of “law enforcement” and described the judiciary as a pawn of the opposition media and conservative politician Mauricio Macri, who replaced him from 2015 to 2019.

Fernéndez remains the sole leader of the left faction of the Peronist movement. Buckman said his polls show 62 percent of Argentines want it removed and 38 percent support it no matter what.

Meanwhile, other cases are pending against him, including money laundering charges against his son and daughter.

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