Former President Carlos S. Menem was sentenced to four and a half years of prison for embezzlement today, but as these things go, he won’t go to jail just yet since the judges will present their ruling criteria in March 2016, at which point Menem’s lawyer will have the chance to appeal the case. Happy holidays, I guess.
Actually, he may not end up going to prison at all considering his advanced age (he’s 85) and the fact that he’s managed to evade a cell this long.
Menem was declared by the court to be the “responsible author” of a scheme during the ’90s wherein he and other ministers embezzled public funds in order to pay themselves “bonuses.” His former Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo and Minister of Justice Raúl Granillo Ocampo have also been sentenced to jail for being “necessary accessories” to the crime and have received three and a half years and three years and three months of jail time, respectively. Seven other suspects were tried, including former Environment Minister María Julia Alsogaray, but they were all acquitted.
The court explained that there had been a “system by which public funds were used to pay bonuses to [the executive branch], which were divided in a discretionary and informal manner.” The court further deemed that Menem had been the one to enable that payment system and did nothing to stop the illicit redistribution.
The court also ruled that Menem, Cavallo and Ocampo are permanently ineligible to hold public office. So much for Menem continuing his term as Senator until December 2017.
Since the full details of the sentence as led by Judge Oscar Bertuzzi will be given on March 2nd at 12:30 PM (yes, as in next year), Menem and Cavallo will retain their freedom because the “ruling is not set in stone yet.”
Due to health issues, the former President was allowed to follow the court proceedings via video conference and has refused to make a statement on the case.
This is not the first charge against Menem. The former President also has a seven-year prison sentence for smuggling illegal weapons to Croatia and Ecuador, which he isn’t serving due to parliamentary immunity. He is also being tried for allegedly covering up a lead on the 1994 AMIA bombing, a trial in which he refused to testify.
To add more controversy to his person, he pardoned hundreds of military officers who disappeared and tortured thousands of people during the last military dictatorship. In fact, speaking his name is sometimes considered bad luck: no wonder The Bubble’s own Noah Beaudette place him “somewhere between Ronald Reagan and Voldemort.”