Kirchner corruption trial delayed by three months

Former Argentine president (2007-2015) and current senator Cristina Kirchner gestures during the First World Critical Thinking Forum in Buenos Aires.
Former Argentine president (2007-2015) and current senator Cristina Kirchner gestures during the First World Critical Thinking Forum in Buenos Aires. PHOTO: AFP

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - The corruption trial of former Argentina president Cristina Kirchner, set to begin next week, has been postponed until May, authorities said on Monday (Feb 18).

It is one of several corruption trials facing the center-left Peronist politician, who turns 66 on Tuesday.

In this case, she is accused of having favoured businessman Lazaro Baez in the attribution of 52 public works contracts worth 46 billion pesos (S$3.2 billion) during the 2007 to 2015 period when she was president.

Next Monday, she is also due to appear before judge Claudio Bonadio to answer questions relating to the "corruption notebooks" case in which she is accused of having received tens of millions of dollars in bribes.

Kirchner, now a senator with partial parliamentary immunity, claims to be the victim of political persecution from the center-right government of President Mauricio Macri.

The two are widely expected to lock horns in an election battle in October.

The favoritism case had been scheduled to proceed on Tuesday next week but has been postponed until May 21, as one of the judges due to hear the case needs an operation in the coming days.

Baez and other officials are being held in pre-trial detention.

Kirchner was ordered to be held in pre-trial detention over the corruption notebooks case but her partial parliamentary immunity protects her from imprisonment, although not prosecution.

The corruption notebooks scandal revolves around the meticulous records kept by a government chauffeur, Oscar Centeno, of cash bribes he is said to have delivered from businessmen to government officials.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of US$160 million in bribes was handed over between 2005 and 2015.

Meanwhile, authorities ordered the detention of Kirchner's former vice-president Amado Boudou.

Last August, Boudou was sentenced to almost six years in prison for "passive bribery" and conduct "incompatible" with his duties as a public servant, but he was then released on bail in December.

That related to his attempt to buy a company that printed currency through a front business while serving as Kirchner's economy minister.

Anti-corruption authorities appealed the decision to release him on bail, and the federal chamber of cassation agreed that his liberty presented a "procedural risk."