The Federal Cassation Court on Wednesday rejected Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s challenge of her indictment as "chief of an illicit association" in the high-profile ‘Cuadernos’ corruption notebooks case, clearing the way for trial.
In a divided ruling, the nation’s top criminal court considered that the indictment ordered by late federal judge Claudio Bonadio and confirmed by the Federal Appeals Court “is not a definite sentence nor a final action making it impossible for the case to continue.”
They thus concluded that there was no basis for the intervention of a maximum instance, throwing out the challenge.
The Cassation Court decision – ruled by judges Diego Barroetaveña and Daniel Petrone, with the dissidence of Ana María Figueroa – effectively clears the way for the oral and public trial of the ‘Cuadernos’ case.
The court highlighted that “at present, there have been overlapping pronunciations by the magistrate and the respective appeals court without observing the existence of a federal question or verifying anything supposedly arbitrary in the challenged indictment which might warrant the intervention of this court.”
The ruling excused the chamber from analysing the vice-president’s challenge against her indictment in any way.
“The attempted challenge only reveals a dissatisfaction which is not sufficient to presume an arbitrary decision or a federal question which would authorise the action of this instance of cassation,” sums up the ruling.
The Judiciary has thus rejected challenges by Fernández de Kirchner’s defence lawyers, leaving firm the accusations against the current vice-president for crimes allegedly committed in the framework of the ‘Cuadernos’ probe.
In reply to the accusations of co-authoring the crimes attributed in the case, known as 'Cuadernos de las Coimas' and comprising illicit association and 27 different criminal actions including graft, the former president presented a complaint to the Cassation Court via her lawyer Carlos Beraldi, which was rejected.
"The direct presentation ought not to prosper to the degree that the challenged resolution does not exceed the limits of impugnation laid down by Article 457 of the Criminal Procedural Code," ruled Judges Barrotaveña and Petrone in voting down the vice-president’s challenge.
Petrone added: "From my viewpoint, the direct presentation of the challenging party does not succeed in adequately refuting the absence of the presumed objective of admissibility which is the objection to the challenge attempted before the cassation court."
The 'Cuadernos de las Coimas' case centres on the collection of bribes in return for the adjudication of public works contracts.
The probe owes its name to notebooks allegedly kept by Oscar Centeno, the chauffeur of Roberto Baratta, a former government official who worked at the Federal Planning Ministry during Fernández de Kirchner’s time in office.
Prosecutors believe Fernández de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015, was at the centre of an illegal bribery ring.