Thursday, November 30, 2023

ARGENTINA | 28-02-2019 13:51

Hotesur: Fernández de Kirchner, Máximo and Florencia Kirchner to face trial

Judicial sources say federal judge Julián Ercolini has sent case file to oral court so that the case can be heard.

Former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her two children, Florencia and Máximo, will stand trial on money-laundering allegations in the so-called 'Hotesur case,' the investigation exploring a corruption ring centred on public works graft and the fraudulent rental of hotels rooms involving businessman Lázaro Báez.

Judicial sources told Perfil this morning that federal judge Julián Ercolini has closed the investigation and sent its case file to an oral court so that the case can be heard. No date has yet been set.

The case takes its name from a hotel industry venture based in Santa Cruz province owned by the Kirchner family. Prosecutors believe the firm was used to launder money and pay bribes, through a corporate, economic and accounting structure that allowed the parties involved to launder illicit funds.

The development is yet another legal blow for Fernández de Kirchner, now a sitting senator for Buenos Aires province, who faces a raft of corruption cases against her name. This will be the second trial for the former head of state.

The first, due to begin on May 21, addresses corruption in public works projects in Santa Cruz, the Patagonian province that served as her springboard into politics. She stands accused of having favoured businessman Lazaro Báez in the awarding of 52 contracts worth a total of 46 billion pesos (roughly US$1.2 billion) during the 2007-2015 period when she served as president.

She is also under investigation in the so-called 'cuadernos' ("notebooks") corruption probe, alongside former government employees and more than 100 businessmen.

Hotel rental fees

The 'Hotesur' casefile reportedly details alleged manoeuvres through which the Kirchner family used corrupt funds obtained through corruption in public works projects to buy a series of hotels and manage them, a task that was outsourced a firm named Valle Miter SRL, owned by Báez.

More than 20 individuals are involved in the case, which according to Ercolini utilised "a complex network of companies" that were launched "to put into circulation in the market part of the profits obtained as a result of defrauding the State."

Ercolini previously placed embargoes on the accused parties, which range from 750 to 800 million pesos. This is the same amount of money that Lázaro Báez is believed to have received through public works contracts during the administrations led by former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, funds which allegedly flowed back in the form of kick-backs through the Kirchner family hotel business.

Ercolini says Fernández de Kirchner and Báez oversaw the corrupt network, with Florencia and Máximo Kirchner – as well as Báez's own son, Martín Báez – considered co-perpetrators of the money-laundering ring.

The hypothesis of the investigation is that Báez lent the Kirchners money to buy the hotels and used Valle Miter to exploit them as mechanisms to launder money.

According to the casefile, a total of 86 million pesos were paid by Valle Miter SRL to Hotesur SA for the payment of rental fees for rooms at various Kirchner family hotels, namely Alto Calafate, Las Dunas and La Aldea.

If found guilty and handed a prison sentence, Fernández de Kirchner and her son, Máximo, would likely not go to jail. As sitting lawmakers, they hold parliamentary immunity. Florencia, however, would likely find herself behind bars. 

The "Hotesur" case was started in 2014 after a complaint filed by ex-deputy and former presidential candidate Margarita Stolbizer.


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