Former Argentine president Cristina Kirchner defiant in ‘corruption notebook’ scandal

Former Argentine president Cristina Kirchner appeared before a judge leading a major probe into corruption under her government on Monday, hitting out at what she described as “judicial persecutions” to rule her out of next year’s elections.

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

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

Kirchner claims persecution

Waving to supporters, Kirchner pushed her way past journalists into Judge Claudio Bonadio’s court in Buenos Aires where she denounced the case as an example of political persecution she has faced under her right-wing successor Mauricio Macri.

“This is a new regional strategy to outlaw leaders, movements and political forces that expanded rights and allowed millions of people out of poverty during the first decade and a half of the 21st Century,” Kirchner wrote on Monday on Twitter.

Former Argentine resident Cristina Kirchner (C) leaves a federal court in

Buenos Aires, August 13, 2018. /VCG Photo

As a senator, Kirchner enjoys congressional immunity from imprisonment, though not prosecution. She is facing trial in several other corruption cases and Bonadio has petitioned the Senate to lift her immunity.

The judge wants to search Kirchner’s properties for evidence in the “corruption notebooks” case, so called because the driver, Oscar Centeno, recorded over a decade of cash drops in a set of notebooks.

‘Corruption notebooks’

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

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of 160 million US dollars in bribes was handed over during a 10-year period from 2005-15.

Argentine presidential candidate Cristina Kirchner (L) leans towards her daughter after

winning the primary elections in Buenos Aires, August 14, 2011. /VCG Photo

“There is no doubt that the copybooks describe in detail the way in which the Kirchners raised money illegally for seven years without any alarm going off at any oversight agency,” said Nicolas Solari of the consultancy Poliarquia.

So far, eight business leaders have confessed and struck plea-bargain deals.

Angelo Calcaterra, a cousin of Macri, acknowledged having ordered the payment of cash requested as a bribe in order to receive government contracts. Testifying before the judge, he said he thought this was a mandatory election campaign contribution.

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri gestures as he speaks during a ceremony to announce

economic measures at the Kirchner Cultural Center in Buenos Aires,

Oct. 30, 2017. /VCG Photo

Refusing to answer questions on Monday, Kirchner instead hit out angrily at what she said was blatant political persecution engineered by Macri.

“From the moment the engineer Mauricio Macri assumed power I have been subjected to multiple judicial persecutions,” the former president said in a written statement delivered to the court.

The aim, Kirchner said, was her “political elimination” ahead of next year’s presidential elections. She has long railed against Bonadio as her tormentor-in-chief.

For all her battles with the judicial system, Kirchner remains one of Argentina’s most popular figures, and leader of the opposition to Macri’s center-right government.

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Source: CGTN

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