Crime & Justice

Corruption case based on “lies,” Argentine V.P. tells court

Buenos Aires, Sep 23 (EFE).- Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez on Friday told the judges hearing a corruption case against her that prosecutors have engaged in “lies, calumny and defamation” in their quest to send her to prison for 12 years.

“I want to make a formal request before this court that on the conclusion of the hearings, an extract is made of each and every one of the lies of the prosecutors contrasted with the documentary, forensic and testimonial evidence,” she said by video-link from her Senate office.

Facing accusations over public works contracts awarded during the 12 years the presidency was occupied by herself and late husband Nestor Kirchner, Fernandez addressed the judges in the dual guise of defendant and defense counsel barely three weeks after surviving an attempt on her life.

Fernandez, 69, insists she is the victim of judicial persecution set in motion by her successor as president, conservative business tycoon Mauricio Macri.

“Prosecutors and judges play (soccer) on the estate of ex-President Macri and nobody thinks that’s strange,” she said Friday.

She is accused of criminal conspiracy and fraud in connection with 51 construction contracts in the southern province of Santa Cruz awarded to firms owned by businessman Lazaro Baez over the course of Kirchner’s 2003-2007 presidency and Fernandez’s 2007-2015 tenure as head of state.

“This criminal conspiracy was to conclude 51 road contracts in Santa Cruz province?,” she asked rhetorically. “In other words, Nestor Kirchner, who was mayor and governor, did all that thinking that he was going to reach the presidency of the nation to build 51 roads in Santa Cruz, the province of which he was governor for three consecutive terns.”

“We work all our lives to reach the presidency and award 51 public works contracts. That can’t be taken seriously,” Fernandez told the court.

The vice president also referred to the attack she suffered outside her apartment building in Buenos Aires, dismissing the notion that the four people in custody for the crime came up with the idea on their own.

“Nobody can think that that band planned, conceived, the intellectual authorship of what they did,” she said.

On the night of Sept. 1, Fernandez was greeting well-wishers outside her building when a man walked up and pointed a hand-gun at her head before pulling the trigger twice, but the weapon jammed.

The suspect was identified as Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel, a 35-year-old Brazilian national with no previous criminal record in his homeland.

Police subsequently arrested Montiel’s Argentine girlfriend and two other people after uncovering evidence that they had been carrying out surveillance at the Fernandez residence prior to the failed attack.

Fernandez supporters began a vigil outside the building in the capital’s Recoleta neighborhood in late August after prosecutors announced they were seeking a 12-year sentence for the vice president.

She said Friday that the assassination attempt made her wonder whether the motivation for the corruption case went beyond a mere desire to exclude her from public life ahead of the 2023 election.

“Staring Sept. 1, I realized that there can be something else behind all of this, because suddenly it’s as if a license was issued from the judicial ambit for anyone to think and do anything,” Fernandez said, recalling the stoning of her Senate office by political foes and the circulation of posters labeling her a “murderer.” EFE rgm/dr

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