Federal Judge Julián Ercolini has acquitted Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and over 100 businessmen in the “cartelisation of public works” chapter arising out of the central investigation of the ‘Cuadernos’ (“notebooks”) corruption case denouncing the alleged payment of bribes during her 2007-2015 government.
Fernández de Kirchner will still have to face trial for allegations of illicit association in the main case, triggered by notebooks allegedly kept by whistleblower Oscar Centeno, the ex-Planning Ministry chauffeur, about the bags of money which ex-government official Roberto Barata is accused of moving.
The acquittals relate to allegations focused on the financial movements of financier Ernesto Clarens, who turned “indicted witness collaborating [with the prosecution]” in connection with the works adjudicated by the National Highways Board to different companies.
Court investigators consider that there was sufficient evidence to believe in the existence of a cartel taking over highway public works in exchange for the payment of bribes to the officials then in charge of awarding them.
Everybody on the list of businessmen allegedly favoured by these public works was summoned and placed on trial by late federal judge Claudio Bonadio for illicit association and graft, but the Federal Appeals Court later called for a review of that decision, considering that not all the businessmen were implicated.
Now Ercolini, succeeding Bonadio in his courtroom, has ruled: “It has not been possible, despite a profuse investigation, to establish the responsibility of the indicted in the facts to which this resolution refers.”
He continued: "Many of the businessmen and/or senior employees interrogated at the time (over and above the expectancy adopted) turned out to have practically no link with the investigation because the companies for which they were responsible and/or they themselves were not mentioned in any list or annex nor by any witness or whistleblower.”
On those grounds the judge acquitted Fernández de Kirchner, former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido, former Public Works secretary José López and Clarens among others.
The businessmen favoured by this ruling include Ángelo Calcaterra, Juan Carlos Goycoechea, Aldo Roggio, Juan Chediak, Alejandro Radetic, Fabián De Sousa, Cristóbal López and Eduardo Eurnekian, all of whom face trial in the central part of this case, as do De Vido, López and Clarens.
The businessmen not listed by Clarens nor in the ‘Cuadernos’ case thus end up acquitted, although this does not imply anything about their being tried in the main case where the whistleblower Centeno has testified on the payment of bribes during years of KIrchnerite government.
Last February, the Cassation Court confirmed the trial of the vice-president for the main body of the copybooks case. This was a harsh reverse for Fernández de Kirchner in the collection of cases emerging from Centeno’s notes.
The case is being tried by the TOF7 (Tribunal Oral Federal 7) courthouse, which last week received the funds which they had been requesting for years from the Supreme Court to advance in the supplementary instruction of the case and possibly fix a date for the start of the trial.
The only plaintiff left in the Clarens case is the UIF (Unidad de Información Financiera) money-laundering watchdog, which has been inactive in this case and will quite possibly not appeal.
Fernández de Kirchner has repeatedly denied the corruption allegations against her and claim they are part of an organised plot of “judicial and political persecution” designed to ruin her reputation and put her behind bars.