Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will face her second trial on corruption charges as Federal Judge Julián Ercolini today upheld a request from Prosecutors Gerardo pollicita and Ignacio Mahiques to officially conclude the investigation of the so-called “Los Sauces” and send it to a tribunal that based on the evidence gathered and subsequent hearings, will determine whether to convict the accused.
The date for the beginning of the trial has not been determined yet.
The former President stands accused of laundering public funds that had been previously embezzled by the assignment of over-inflated government contracts to two business leaders that have been associated to her: Lázaro Báez and Cristóbal López. Both of them are already in pre-trial arrest due to their alleged involvement in other corruption cases.
The money Báez and López paid in renting these properties – most of which were never actually in use – is thought to be a kickback for the influence Kirchner used while in office to push for State contracts to be given to the two business men. The fact that the properties rented by the businessmen made up more than 86 percent of the company’s income – roughly AR$ 26 million – helped the judge to reach this conclusion. The former President’s children, Máximo and Florencia Kirchner, as well as other alleged associates, will also face trial.
The case began after former presidential candidate and deputy Margarita Stolbizer — who was also responsible for the launch of the Hotesur investigation, another high-profile case implicating Cristina — took an investigation of her own to the courts. Stolbizer has also accused the Kirchner family of forging legal documents in order to cover up the unsavory business behind the real estate rentals.
In their request, the prosecutors assured there was enough evidence to corroborate the existence of a scheme whereby “a portion of funds that were embezzled from the state’s coffers – through kickbacks – returned to the former Presidents and their close family.” Moreover, they argued that the business leaders received “illegitimate tax benefits and, because of that, resorted to different money laundering schemes to significantly increase their assets.”
“They developed a permanent mechanism to recycle a portion of the profit” so “they could reach the former heads of state under the appearance of having been obtained legally,” the request adds.
As mentioned, this will be the second trial the former President will face. The first one, in fact, is tightly related to “Los Sauces,” as she stands accused of illegally benefiting Lázaro Báez with public works in the Santa Cruz Province in exchange for the kickbacks that would then be laundered through Los Sauces. In other words, the first leg of a wide-ranging corruption scheme.