Photo via: Télam

Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (refused to) testify today in the federal courts of Comodoro Py regarding her role in the so-called “Los Sauces” case, in which she has been formally charged with money laundering.

Fernández arrived to the courts minutes before 9 AM and 20 minutes later she was already out. As is her constitutional right, she refused to answer the questions the judge’s office had for her. Instead, she presented a written statement in which she requested to be absolved, argued that the charges pressed against her are “absurd” and claimed that she is being subjected to “persecution.”

“As I have said several times, I’m being subjected to persecution by the judicial branch and the media. This is unprecedented in our country, at least during democratic periods, and in this case extends to my children, Máximo and Florencia Kirchner, especially the latter,” a part of the former President’s written statement reads.

She also made her intention to take the case to the highest national and international courts clear, requesting Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio recuse himself from the investigation because, according to her judgement, he’s not being impartial: “same as any other person, I have the right to be judged by an impartial judge, a characteristic the magistrate in charge of this case doesn’t have,” she argued through her lawyer, Carlos Beraldi.

Photo: Gustavo Amarelle
Photo: Gustavo Amarelle

Despite not answering the court’s questions, the former President did have to undergo some formalities, and was required to answer a couple questions that weren’t related to the case. And her answers were everything you would expect from her. Infobae reported that when a court official began to read her rights, Fernández interrupted him to ask “oh, so I have rights?” The tone set, her three answers gave those present a healthy dose of sarcasm.

  • Court Official: Who do you live with?
  • CFK: I live alone, with my dog “lolita.”
  • CO: What’s your income?
  • CFK: My pension for having been President
  • CO: How much is your pension?
  • CFK: Ask Bonadio, he seized it.

Bonadio showed up at the office at the end of the process, but Fernández didn’t look at him nor did she respond when he greeted those present.

The former President’s children, Máximo and Florencia also had to testify in the case yesterday, as each own 25 percent of the investigated company. Fernández owns the remaining 50 percent.

An hour before her arrival, a small crowd started to gather in Comodoro Py’s surroundings to support the former President. Several political leaders close to her were among them. They were: Victory Front (FpV) National Deputies Mariano Recalde,  Andrés “Cuervo” (Crow) Larroque, Diana Conti, Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro, Nuevo Encuentro party — which is part of the FpV — leader Martín Sabatella and Luis D’Elía.

What’s The Los Sauces Case All About, Again?

Los Sauces S.A. is a real estate company owned by the Kirchner family based in Santa Cruz, and is being investigated for allegedly embezzling State funds. Cristina, and her children Máximo and Florencia have all been formally charged due to their positions within the company.

A hotel owned by Los Sauces company. Photo via La Nación
A hotel owned by Los Sauces company. Photo via La Nación

The investigation began after former presidential candidate and Progressive Front leader Margarita Stolbizer — who was also responsible for the launch of the Hotesur investigation, another high-profile case implicating Cristina — pressed charges against Los Sauces. She claimed they had rented real estate to companies owned by the former President’s main business partners: Lázaro Báez, the main State contractor under the Kirchner administrations, and Cristóbal López, another businessman with close ties to the former administration.

The company is accused of embezzling State funds much in the same way that Cristina was accused of doing so in the Hotesur Case: by putting the money into a business or organization as a “front.” (In the Hotesur Case, Báez’s flagship company, Austral Constructions, allegedly used rooms in the presidential family hotel Alto Calafate as the front). According to Stolbizer, Cristina could have laundered money using this same method.

“In Hotesur, favors were paid with room rentals. When it comes to Los Sauces, favors were paid with real estate rentals by Lázaro Báez and Cristóbal López’s companies,” Stolbizer charged.

Stolbizer has also accused the Kirchner family of forging legal documents in order to cover up the unsavory business behind the real estate rentals.

Judge Bonadio ordered all suspects to be called into questioning after receiving a report which confirmed that both Báez and López had deposited millions of pesos into Los Sauces’s bank account without any explicit justification or retribution.