María Julia Alsogaray, a former official in Argentine ex-president Carlos Menem administration cabinet (1989/99), was sentenced this week to four years in prison for the fraud she committed during the privatization of the state-owned EnTel telecommunications company in 1989. It is the third sentence for Alsogaray in the past few years.
“I’m not going to make any statement,” said Alsogaray when she left the court after her sentence was pronounced.
Alsogaray, 71, had already received two previous sentences for crimes committed when she was Environment secretary under Menem but has yet to go prison because the convictions can still be appealed.
The ex-official will now also be permanently banned from public office since the court ruled her guilty of being “criminally responsible for committing fraud and malfeasance.” Judicial authorities subsequently ordered her “to be immediately detained” once the conviction is confirmed, according to the Judicial Centre of Information (CIJ).
The new sentence can be appealed and its judicial grounding will be disclosed on April 28. During the trial, the former politician claimed that she was “totally innocent.”
Alsogaray was the state trustee of EnTel and is accused of abusing her position to extend the duration and double the price of certified contracts signed with various private companies, leading to millions of dollars of losses for the government.
The court also convicted former members of the telecommunications company and a consultancy company implicated in the case to four years in prison and three suspended years.
Alsogaray had received a four-year prison sentence for fraudulent administration and another three years for embezzlement in the two other cases where she was convicted in the last few years. However, charges against her were dismissed in another case where she was accused of irregularities in an advertising contract for a fire prevention program during her stint at the Environment department.
The former minister began her political career in the 1980s with the conservative political party Democratic Centre Union (UCéDé), a close ally of the Menem administration.
Alsogaray became a symbol of Menem’s government, a decade in which the former La Rioja governor and current dissident Peronist senator was in power. In this period, neo-conservative policies promoted by the Washington Consensus were applied, leading to the privatization of several of the Argentina's state companies.
Argentina under the Kirchner couple administration's adopted a completely opposite policy, seizing back most privatized companies. The most notorious the case of oil and gas YPF, a majority stake of which was taken from Spain's Repsol and re-nationalized.