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ARGENTINA | 24-02-2021 17:49

Lázaro Báez sentenced to 12 years in jail for money-laundering

Businessman Lázaro Báez, at the centre of a corruption probe involving ex-presidents Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Néstor Kirchner, was sentenced to 12 years in jail Wednesday on money-laundering charges

Kirchnerite businessman and tycoon Lázaro Báez, at the centre of a corruption probe involving Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband Nestor Kirchner, was sentenced to 12 years in jail Wednesday for money laundering.

A court in Buenos Aires convicted the 64-year-old of transferring around US$55 million, illicitly sourced, to accounts in tax havens between 2010 and 2013, during which time Fernández de Kirchner was at the country's helm. She is now vice-president.

The money was later used to buy Treasury bonds and then deposited into accounts of Austral Construcciones, a company owned by Báez, the court concluded. From 2005 to 2015, Austral Construcciones firm won 51 government tenders worth more than 46 billion pesos, according to investigators.

The businessman's four children also received sentences of between three years suspended and nine years in jail.

Another 17 people were also sentenced in the case.

In total, 22 convictions were made, with three acquittals. All the sentences can still be appealed.

Báez, a longtime Kirchnerite ally and a central figure in several corruption scandals involving the Kirchner governments and members of the presidential couple’s family, has been in detention since 2016, a period that will be subtracted from his sentence.

In his last public comment to the court, on December 30, Báez claimed he was a victim of "a systematic persecution by  political power, the press and a large part of the Judiciary."

Since September, he has been under house arrest at an unknown location, fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet. Previous attempts to settle him at his home in a luxury gated community ended without success after outrage among neighbours.

A former bank manager, Báez had created a business empire in the southern Santa Cruz Province, winning oil and public works tenders during the presidencies of Néstor Kirchner from 2003 to 2007 (died 2010), and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner until 2015.

Fernández de Kirchner stands accused in a separate trial of having favoured Báez in the awarding of more than 50 public works contracts in Santa Cruz, worth some US$1.2 billion.

In total, the 68-year-old former head of state, who claims she is a victim of "lawfare" and political persecution, faces nine cases in the courts against her related to alleged corrupt activity during her presidency.

– TIMES/AFP

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