Buenos Aires, Dec 6 (EFE).- Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez on Tuesday was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption, specifically for irregularities in granting roadway construction contracts during the 2003-2015 governments headed by her late husband and her.
In handing down the sentence in a trial that had begun in May 2019, the court also ruled that the former president is ineligible ever to hold public office again.
The judges hearing the case found Fernandez guilty of the crime of fraudulent administration of public funds but they acquitted her on the charges of alleged illicit association.
The sentence handed down against Fernandez in the so-called “Highway Case” was less than the 12 years behind bars requested last August by prosecutors in delivering their final arguments.
Prosecutors claimed that Fernandez created a scheme to award lucrative public work contracts to a friend in exchange for bribes.
The court also ordered the confiscation of the funds resulting from the crime – some 84.835 billion pesos, or $482 million.
The 69-year-old former president, who enjoys immunity from serving her sentence until December 2023 due to the fact that she is now vice president and president of the senate, has the right to appeal the ruling and she will almost certainly do so, a process that could take years.
In the meantime, after learning of the verdict, Fernandez said she will not run for public office again.
During the trial, judges heard arguments regarding irregularities in granting contracts for 51 public works projects in the southern province of Santa Cruz, a bastion of Kirchner support, to firms owned by businessman Lazaro Baez during the 2003-2007 administration of the late Nestor Kirchner and that of his wife, Fernandez, who governed Argentina from 2007-2015.
Besides convicting Fernandez, the court also handed down a six-year sentence against Baez, former Public Works Secretary Jose Lopez and the former head of the National Highway Directorate, Nelson Periotti.
The magistrates also imposed sentences ranging from three to five years on the former chiefs of the Santa Cruz National Highway Department, Mauricio Collareda and Raul Daruich, the ex-presidents of the Santa Cruz Provincial Highway Agency, Raul Pavesi and Jose Raul Santibañez, and on Juan Carlos Villafañe, the former mayor of the southern city of Rio Gallegos, who is also a former president of the Santa Cruz Highway Department.
On the other hand, the court acquitted Julio de Vido, Argentina’s federal planning minister from 2003-2015; Abel Fatala, Argentina’s former deputy secretary of public works; and Hector Garo, the former head of the Santa Cruz Provincial Highway Agency.
In the case against Carlos Kirchner, the cousin of Nestor Kirchner and former head of the Federal Public Works Coordination Under-Secretariat, the judges acquitted him of the crime of illicit association and dismissed charges that he failed to fulfill his public duties.
The vice president, who in recent years has managed to dodge calls that she be held in preventive custody in assorted criminal proceedings – in many of which she has been acquitted – thanks to the privileges she has enjoyed as a public office holder, has always maintained her innocence and has claimed to be the target of judicial and political harassment.
In its final phase, the trial was shaken by the Sept. 1 attack on Fernandez, when a man tried to shoot her at the door of her Buenos Aires home while a group of followers was demonstrating their support for her there. His pistol jammed as he pointed it at Fernandez from point-blank range.