September, 17 2018 (Reuters)
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernandez was indicted on Monday on charges that her administration accepted bribes from construction companies in exchange for public works contracts, according to an indictment released by a federal judge.
Argentina’s Justice Department is seeking to determine whether Fernandez headed a broad corruption network that involved politicians and businessmen during her two terms as president from 2007-15.
The corruption scandal erupted in August when a local newspaper published notebooks kept by a chauffer of Fernandez’s former planning minister. The notebooks cataloged bags of cash allegedly delivered to government offices and the private residence of Fernandez and her late husband and former President Nestor Kirchner.
A spokesperson for Fernandez did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
As a senator, Fernandez enjoys immunity from arrest, although she is not immune from prosecution.
Federal judge Claudio Bonadio, who is heading the investigation, asked that Fernandez be impeached, a move that is unlikely to garner the support necessary to pass a Senate vote.
“It is necessary to continue this investigation until we have completely clarified how these illegal payments were structured, at least in regards to the officials who were part of the former planning ministry and the entrepreneurs associated with them,” the indictment said.
The scandal has implicated dozens of former officials and business owners in the construction sector, shaking confidence in an industry already burdened by an ailing economy, government cuts to public works and crippling interest rates at 60 percent.
Although Fernandez has already been indicted on other charges, she still enjoys broad popular support, and is widely expected to run for president again next year.