Reigniting her claims that she is a victim of political and judicial persecution, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner this week demanded the recusal of an investigating prosecutor and judge leading a high-profile trial against her.
Argentina’s vice-president promoted revelations from a series of reports by the Pagina/12 newspaper. They claim that judges and prosecutors – including at least two involved in an ongoing case against her – played football at former president Mauricio Macri’s private quinta home Los Abrojos.
The claims, which the Senate chief believes proves the courts are biased against her, concern the so-called ‘Vialidad’ trial, which is in its final stages.
The former head of state, 69, is the target of about a dozen investigations for crimes including bribe-taking, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Some cases have been thrown out, but at least five are at the trial phase.
Fernández de Kirchner, who included screenshots of images and text from the newspaper report written by journalist Raúl Kollmann in a series of posts of social media, charged that members of the Judiciary are playing on the “same team” as Macri and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
"I have instructed my lawyer to challenge the football players first thing tomorrow morning. The Argentine Judiciary stinks," she declared, saying she would seek “the nullity of all the procedural acts carried out by the named magistrates.”
Figures in the ruling Frente de Todos coalition soon rushed to her defence, with Justice Minister Martín Soria decrying the “a degree of promiscuity between political and judicial officials that has never been seen before.”
Soon after, Fernández de Kirchner’s lawyer Carlos Beraldi filed motions asking for the recusal of Prosecutor Diego Luciani and Judge Rodrigo Giménez Uriburu from the trial probing alleged irregularities related to public works projects. The presentation was delivered to the court moments before Luciani resumed hearings this week.
Fernández de Kirchner has regularly claimed to be a victim of “lawfare," denouncing an alleged conspiracy involving the Judiciary and the members of the opposition that apparently seeks to remove her from public life and see her behind bars.
Referring to the Pagina/12 report, Beraldi said that both Luciani and Giménez Uriburu had played for a team called ‘El Liverpool’ at the Los Abrojos quinta estate which is "owned by former president Mauricio Macri."
"Does it seem reasonable that the prosecutor who accuses and the judge who must judge Cristina Fernández de Kirchner play football matches iatn the country house of Mauricio Macri, whose government promoted this same case and was constituted as plaintiff and civil actor through the Anti-Corruption Office, the Financial Information Unit and the National Directorate of Roads?" questioned the lawyer.
The vice-president also highlighted other figures who had played at Macri's estate, including lawmaker Mariano Llorens.
Earlier in the week, as hearings continued, Luciani and fellow prosecutor Sergio Mola laid out the case against the vice-president in court.
The probe involves alleged graft related to public works tenders between 2003 and 2015 won by the Austral Construcciones company owned by businessman Lazaro Baez, a friend of former president Néstor Kirchner, the vice-president’s late husband, and his family.
The trial began in May 2019, has heard from more than a hundred witnesses and had to be suspended in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the prosecutors, Fernández de Kirchner’s government created a “preferential payment channel" for Báez's company from which they personally benefitted from “overpricing.” She is accused of leading an “illicit association" that illegally siphoned off state funds, part of an “extraordinary corruption matrix.”
"More than 1.5 billion pesos were granted in budget extensions for these works. Public funds were allocated to illegal works that served to harm the State," said Luciani, who said that "every step of this manoeuvre was perfectly synchronised.”
"The damage to the state was increasing all the time, without limits," he said. "We are talking about a lot of money, judges, a lot of money.”
"They installed and maintained within the national and provincial administration of Santa Cruz, one of the most extraordinary corruption matrixes that unfortunately and sadly ever existed in the country,” said the prosecutor.
Opposition leader and Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said this week that Luciani had made a “very convincing” presentation in the trial against her.
"The presentation was forceful, the information made available is very strong," said Rodríguez Larreta, a likely presidential candidate in 2023. He added that it is “obviously up to the judges to determine the [outcome of the] case."
Speaking a day after Beraldi presented a recusal motion against one of the judges of the Federal Oral Court No. 2 and Prosecutor Luciani, the mayor said that the vice-president’s remarks were "barbaric distracting manoeuvres.”
He refused to comment on the photos showing Luciani and Giménez Uriburu at Los Abrojos.