Ex-President of Argentina Is Sentenced in Embezzlement Case

December 4, 2015

BUENOS AIRES — Carlos Saúl Menem, the former Argentine president, was convicted and sentenced on Tuesday to more than four years in prison for overseeing the embezzlement of public funds to pay bonuses to government officials during his presidency in the 1990s.

A court in Buenos Aires handed down the sentence of four and a half years after finding that Mr. Menem had devised a scheme in which money set aside for an intelligence agency was periodically funneled away to pay what the prosecution said was a total of $466 million to ministers and other government workers on top of their regular salaries, according to local news reports on the case. Mr. Menem was never accused of taking any of the embezzled funds for himself.

Mr. Menem’s lawyer said he would appeal the conviction, which is to be finalized at a hearing in March. Mr. Menem has congressional immunity in the Senate until December 2017, so even if the appeal is rejected, he will not serve a prison sentence or house arrest, said Martín Böhmer, an Argentine law professor.

Mr. Menem, 85, who was president from 1989 to 1999 and is now a senator, was not present for his sentencing because of poor health. Two of his former colleagues — Domingo Cavallo, a former economy minister, and Raúl Granillo Ocampo, a former justice minister — also received prison sentences of more than three years for participating in the scheme, and were ordered to repay hundreds of thousands of pesos’ worth of illegal bonuses.

During the trial, Mr. Cavallo, 67, said he did not know that receiving the payments was a crime.

Evidence of the scheme came to light a decade ago in a separate corruption case involving María Julia Alsogaray, an environment secretary under Mr. Menem who was sentenced to house arrest this year for contractual irregularities at the Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable Development, the nation’s principal environmental agency.

In 2013, Mr. Menem was sentenced to seven years for illegally smuggling arms to Croatia and Ecuador during his two-term presidency, in violation of international embargoes. He has appealed that conviction.

He is also on trial on charges that he derailed an investigation into the unsolved suicide bombing of a Jewish community center here two decades ago, which killed 85 people.

Ex-President of Argentina Is Sentenced in Embezzlement Case