The man accused of being the front-man for Argentina's former presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner in alleged widespread corruption schemes appeared in court on Tuesday to face charges of money laundering. Lázaro Báez is accused of participating in a money-laundering scheme known as the K-money route. It involves some US$60 million in alleged dirty cash.
The prosecution alleges Báez, a former bank cashier, created a business empire in Santa Cruz province, political turf of the Kirchners, where he won tenders for oil and public works projects during Nestor and Cristina presidencies, spanning from 2003 to 2015.
The alleged corruption scheme is just one of several involving both Báez and former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Another 24 people are facing charges in the case including Báez's four children.
Not only do I know nothing about this transaction but there is no evidence that links me to it, Fernández de Kirchner said in a written submission to Judge Casanello presented in September.
Báez owns at least 25 ranches comprising 400,000 hectares in the southern Patagonia region, as well as dozens of properties and landholdings both in Santa Cruz and in the city of Buenos Aires.
One of his properties was excavated in September in search of buried containers believed to be full of money, but nothing was found.
A defiant Fernández de Kirchner said at the time that authorities could track her movements, tap her telephone calls and dig up the whole of Argentine Patagonia because they will never find anything to implicate me as I never took any illicit money.
Nevertheless the former Argentine head of state is under investigation in seven corruption cases in total, but claims she is the victim of judicial persecutions aimed at derailing her bid to run for a third presidential term in next year's elections.