You’ve made it to February. And now that the first month of the year is over, so is the judicial recess in Argentina, which means that the wheels of all high-profile court cases (involving high-profile political players) in the country are back in motion.
So before you feel overwhelmed because they are all happening at the same time and you lack context information, here is a list of the ones you should be paying attention to, especially since they are close to going through breaking points in the relatively near future. (We say “relatively” because when it comes to the Argentine legal system, everything takes forever).
THE ‘K MONEY TRAIL’ CASE
This is one of the most relevant cases against former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, along with high-ranking officials from her administration and business representatives who are considered to be her associates.
If you haven’t been following this case, basically Cristina has been indicted for allegedly knowingly and unlawfully giving Lázaro Báez’s construction company 80 percent of the public works projects that were supposed to be carried out in the Patagonia province of Santa Cruz between 2003 and 2015. Báez, a close ally of the Kirchner couple while they were in office, has been in preemptive prison since 2016 for his involvement in the case.
Overall, the works amounted to AR $16 billion and, according to the prosecutors working on the case, the whole scheme was masterminded by the former President who was hoping to get a cut of the payments that the government made to Báez, thus embezzling public funds.
The initial investigative part of the case – here called instrucción – is already over, as Federal Judge Julián Ercolini has determined that there is enough evidence to consider that those accused are indeed guilty and has sent the case to trial, where they will be judged by a tripartite court.
Far from intimidated, a defiant Cristina Kirchner has requested for the trial to begin as soon as possible in order to prove her innocence. Former Planning Minister Julio De Vido and disgraced former Public Works Secretary José López, as well as Báez and his son Martín have also been indicted.
THE HOTESUR CASE
Yes, this one is also about Cristina Kirchner.
Judge Ercolini will also have to determine whether to indict the former President for participating in a money laundering scheme using the family owned hotel Alto Calafate as a front in the so-called “Hotesur case.” (Hotesur S.A. is the company that owns the Alto Calafate hotel, and Cristina is a shareholder in it.)
This case is linked to the ‘K Money Trail’, as prosecutors are trying to determine whether Báez paid these alleged kickbacks to the former President by paying for thousands of rooms in the Kirchner family hotel that would never be used.
- Read more: Hotesur Case: CFK Went to Comodoro Py, but Refused to Testify and Presented a Written Statement Instead
THE AMIA COVER-UP CASE
In what’s arguably the highest-profile case for Fernández de Kirchner, the Cassation Court – the highest criminal court in the country, except for the Supreme Court – will have to rule over an appeal presented by the former President, who requested her indictment be annulled.
Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio, however, has already taken the necessary steps towards sending the case to trial. If the Cassation Court rejects Fernández de Kirchner’s appeal and Federal Prosecutor Eduardo Taiano requests so, the case goes to a tribunal.
Bonadio made this decision after determining that there is enough evidence to conclude that the former President is guilty of orchestrating a plot to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish community center attack – in which 85 people died and more than 150 were injured – in exchange for trade deals, like late prosecutor Alberto Nisman had assured before being found dead.
The judge also determined that Cristina should be arrested and put in preemptive prison, and has requested that the Senate strips her from congressional immunity (she’s a national senator now, so unless the Senate votes to do so, she can’t be sent to jail). However, it is extremely unlikely that this will happen.
- Read more: AMIA Cover Up Case: Judge Indicts Cristina Kirchner, Requests She Be Stripped of Congressional Immunity
THE CICCONE CASE
The trial against former Vice-President Amado Boudou began in October of last year and is set to continue throughout 2018. In November 3, 2017, Federal Judge Ariel Lijo determined that he should be arrested and put in custody, although this was in relation to another case in which he was accused of embezzlement and money-laundering (yes, it’s complicated to follow, I know).
However, he was released on January 12 after a second court found that his pre-trial detention was not warranted. This is far from translating into less legal problems for Boudou.
The former veep is indicted in several other cases and, in this particular one, he has been accused of using his influence during his tenure as Economy Minister (in the first Cristina Kirchner administration) to acquire Ciccone – the only private printing company in the country with the ability to print currency, then on the verge of bankruptcy – to award it state contracts.
THE ONCE RAILWAY TRAGEDY CASE
Former Planning Minister Julio De Vido, who was in office during the three Kirchner administrations, was taken into custody last October as a result of the “Río Turbio” case (yup, that’s another case!). But this is not his only legal problem. He has also been indicted in the ‘Once railway tragedy’ case, as he has been accused of being partially responsible for the death of 51 people and 789 injured.
During rush hour on February 22nd, 2012, Train 16 of the Sarmiento line hit the buffers at the Once train station – the end of the line – because the brakes were not activated. The first three carriages, which were full of commuters, were severely damaged, resulting in many casualties.
SPECIAL MENTION: FORMER PRESIDENT CARLOS MENEM
The former President and current Senator has only avoided going to prison during all these years because the judicial system in Argentina moves slower than the second season of Breaking Bad, and because he still wields an enormous deal of political influence in his native province of La Rioja, where he manages to continue getting elected to hold elected office regardless of what he says or does (again, blame it on congressional immunity.)
In 2013, Menem was convicted to seven years in prison for gun trafficking to Ecuador and Croatia during his time in office, a case that began in 1995 (I told you the system was slow.) However, the former President appealed in all of the judicial instances and now it has reached the Supreme Court, which should rule on the matter this year.
It will also have to rule in another case, in which he was convicted for bribing officials from his administration. If one of the two sentences is confirmed, the Court will ask the Senate to vote in favor of stripping Menem from his congressional immunity so he can fulfill his sentence. However, considering he is 87 years old, he would surely be granted house arrest and would spend his last days in a gated community in La Rioja.
- Read more: Menem Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison
Buckle up, it’s going to be an intense year.