Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Argentine senate approves search of Fernandez homes

AFP, BUENOS AIRES

The Argentine Senate on Wednesday authorized investigators to search three homes belonging to former Argentine president Cristina Fernandez, as part of the so-called corruption notebooks case.

Claudio Bonadio, the judge leading the investigation in the multi-million dollar bribery case, petitioned the Senate to partially lift Kirchner’s immunity to allow the residences to be searched.

As a senator, Fernandez enjoys congressional immunity from imprisonment, but not from prosecution.

However, all 67 senators present — including Fernandez herself — approved the partial lifting of that immunity to allow the searches as Bonadio seeks evidence that the leftist former president accepted millions of dollars in bribes from businesspeople in exchange for public works contracts.

In a fiery and defiant speech to the chamber, the 65-year-old said that the cases against her were politically motivated.

“If there was something missing to consecrate the political persecution going on in Argentina, it was this.... I am going to be the first elected senator to be searched,” Fernandez said.

Facing trial in several other corruption cases, she has previously accused Bonadio of carrying out “judicial persecutions” aimed at derailing a possible run for the presidency next year.

Senators reached their decision after several hours of debate.

Last week, the Senate was unable to muster a quorum to debate the request. However, this time, senators appeared set to favor the magistrate’s request from the start, with Fernandez herself giving an indication that she would bow to the seemingly inevitable.

She told lawmakers in a letter that she was willing to allow searches of her homes in Buenos Aires, Santa Cruz and El Calafate, on condition that they did not allow the searches to be filmed or photographed.

Eduardo Costa, from Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s center-right Cambiemos coalition, said that he would vote in favor of Bonadio’s request to allow him to move ahead with the case.

It was time “to repair the damage that corruption and officials do to the Argentine people,” Costa said.

Ana Almiron of Fernandez's Front for Victory party questioned “the purpose and the need for the search.”

“They are trying to cover up the truth of what’s happening in Argentina,” she said, alluding to an economic crisis that has forced Macri to agree to a US$50 billion IMF loan.

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the Argentine Congress building in Buenos Aires on Tuesday night, demanding that senators authorize the searches.

“Prison for Cristina,” protesters shouted, and also: “Give back the money.”

As the Senate debated on Wednesday, a handful of Fernandez’s supporters awaited the decision outside, waving pro-Kirchner banners. Another small group demonstrated nearby, demanding that lawmakers end her immunity.

More than a dozen elite businesspeople and former government officials were arrested after the La Nacion newspaper on Aug. 1 reported that millions in bribes were delivered by a ministerial chauffeur to Fernandez’s residences, both during her presidency and that of her late husband, Nestor Kirchner.

The driver’s meticulous records of the cash deliveries — allegedly payments from business leaders in exchange for public works contracts — form the basis of Bonadio’s investigation.

According to driver Oscar Centeno’s bombshell evidence, the family residence in Buenos Aires was the venue for the handover of millions of dollars in cash, with others taking place at the Casa Rosada presidential office and the Olivos official presidential residence.

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