Photo via Los Andes

Lázaro Báez, the businessman who is sharing the limelight in several corruption cases with former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, was hospitalized yesterday in the neighborhood of Palermo with a severe arrhythmia. Báez has been in preemptive custody since April of last year, believed to have been part of a corruption scheme led by the former president.

According to sources from the federal prison system, Báez was already getting treatment in the Ezeiza prison where he is being held for diverse conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and arrhythmia. Authorities decided to move him to a hospital when his arrhythmia worsened, but clarified that his condition is stable.

Shorty after the news were broke, journalist Alejandro Fantino assured in the political  TV show he hosts, Animales Sueltos, that the reason why his health deteriorated abruptly has to do with a breakthrough development in one of the cases that have him in hot water.

“You know why that happened to him? Because of the work prosecutor in the case, Guillermo Marijuán. 10 days ago some information arrived. It’s being kept safe, it’s information that will change the case’s trajectory in the next months. 10 days ago some information arrived from Switzerland. The money laundering circle has been closed,” said Fantino, reading a text message he had just received live.

He was making reference to the fact that the Swiss justice system confirmed to their Argentine counterparts the existence of an a bank account belonging to Lázaro Báez in their country with at least US $25 million in it. His children also have access to the account.

The information comes as a result of a request issued by the government’s Financial Information Unit (UIF), tasked with elaborating a report indicating whether Báez or his children had siphoned money overseas — something now has been confirmed. Although this is not conclusive proof that this is money coming from an eventual corruption scheme, it does not look good in the eyes of the court and may prompt further investigations into him and other participants of this still alleged scheme — namely, the former president.

Fernandez and Baez. Photo via Clarin
Fernandez and Baez. Photo via Clarin

The most significant case in which Báez has been charged is the one being investigated by Judge Julián Ercolini, tasked with determining the existence of the scheme. However, there are many other processes investigating similar crimes, or crimes that could have only been committed if the scheme actually existed.

For example, Fernández and Báez have both been charged in the “Hotesur” case, which is investigating if the businessman rented rooms of the hotel belonging to the former president — called “Alto Calafate” — as a way of laundering previously embezzled public funds. The same thing happens with the “Los Sauces” case. For that reason, several court officials and politicians have requested that all these alleged crimes to be grouped in a so-called “Mega case.”

Báez has been held in the Ezeiza prison since April last year because Judge Sebastián Casanello, investigating a corruption case of the kind known as the “K money trail,” determined that having Báez free could endanger the investigation in two different ways:

  • Because he had means to interfere with it if he wanted to. By tampering witnesses, for example.
  • Or because, also given the means he has, he could have escaped the country to avoid being arrested, should he be found guilty of just because he wouldn’t want to risk being prosecuted.

For a long time many speculated that Báez would request a plea deal to reduce an eventual sentence in exchange for turning Fernández in, but roughly a year after being put in prison, he maintains his innocence.