Wednesday, July 17, 2024

ARGENTINA | 05-06-2023 18:46

Judge dismisses ‘Ruta K’ corruption case against Argentina's Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello, acting upon a request filed by the ‘Ruta K’ case’s lead prosecutor, dismisses charges against Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has started the month with good news on the judicial front: a federal judge on Monday decided to dismiss changes against her in a high-profile money-laundering and corruption case.

Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello, acting upon a request filed by the case’s lead prosecutor, said there was no evidence she was involved in a crime in the long-running probe known as the ‘Ruta del dinero K’ or “K money trial case.”

Argentina’s vice-president consistently denied the allegations against her and maintains that she is a victim of political and judicial persecution 

Removing Fernández de Kirchner from the case in a three-page ruling, Casanello wrote that “without an accusation, there is no possibility of a criminal trial” – a reference to the lack of evidence against her 

Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán was key to the final decision. In an exculpatory ruling to the court filed at the end of last week, he highlighted an “absence of elements to support the accusation against Cristina Elízabeth Fernández" in the money-laundering case first initiated almost a decade ago. 

Declaring that there was no evidence to indict her, he highlighted that specialists from the AFIP tax agency and UIF money-laundering watchdog had reached the same conclusion and also requested dismissal.

"Faced with the request from the prosecutor and holder of the criminal action to dismiss – [a position] supported by the rest of the state agencies – the judge's task is limited to examining the requirements of reasonableness and legality of the request," Casanello explained in his resolution.

“Without an accusation, there is no possibility of a criminal trial,” he concluded.


The case

The ‘Ruta del dinero K’ case focuses on corruption and money-laundering offences allegedly committed between 2003 and 2015. It centres on Kirchnerite ally and business tycoon Lázaro Báez, a former bank cashier who created a business empire in Santa Cruz Province in Argentina’s south, winning tenders for oil and public works projects via his Austral Construcciones firm during the 12-year period spanning the presidencies of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Báez, who has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to 10 years in prison, was formerly a close friend of both former presidents, who rose to national politics after establishing a power base in the southern province.

The ‘Ruta del dinero K’ case has been elevated to trial on four occasions between 2017 and 2020 with several businessmen appearing in the dock on corruption and money-laundering offences. Prosecutors believe that some US$60 million was expatriated and then repatriated in an attempt to legitimise it.

In his request seeking dismissal, Marijuán wrote last month that he had “no doubt about the close and direct personal relationship between Cristina Elisabet Fernández and Lázaro Antonio Báez" but that the fact did not mean she was necessarily involved in the money-laundering which led to Báez’s conviction.

“Having spent more than 10 years since the beginning of this criminal proceeding and almost five years since the declaration of the accused in the framework of this case, I have not been able to gather evidence leading me to move beyond the state of suspicion that allowed me to order the summons,” he concluded.

Casanello highlighted the weight carried by the prosecutor’s brief, saying that after the prosecutor “closed the investigation opened seven years ago to elucidate whether the former president had participated in the money-laundering operations attributed in this case to Lázaro Báez and his entourage.”

"In response to the prosecutor's request, the two plaintiffs – UIF and AFIP – were consulted and both agencies agreed with the proposed solution," the judge added.

Casanello also dismissed a presentation by a civil association challenging the decision to remove the vice-president from the case. 



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