Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez was charged on Friday with defrauding the state as part of her government's handling of the dollar futures market. Federal judge Claudio Bonadio said that a scheme to keep the Argentine peso inflated by selling dollars below market value would not have been possible without Fernandez's approval.
It was “unthinkable that a financial operation of this magnitude” could have been carried out without the explicit approval of “the highest political and economic decision makers of government.”
Bonadio has said this cost the state about US$5.2 billion, allowing buyers to make big profits on the transactions. The sales also led to a sharp drop in Central Bank reserves.
Cristina Fernandez, who has denied any wrongdoing and says she is the victim of political persecution, can appeal the decision.
Former Economy Minister Axel Kicillof, former Central Bank President Alejandro Vanoli and 12 other former officials were also charged, according to the decision published by the official judicial news agency. The crime is punishable by 5-20 years in prison.
Cristina Fernandez was dogged by corruption allegations during her eight years in the presidency. Since leaving office in December, she has also been included in investigations involving allegations of money laundering and possible illegal enrichment
Last month, Mr. Kicillof derided the case as “an absurdity” and “entirely political.” The criminal complaint that led to proceedings was filed by lawmakers in the governing coalition of the new president, Mauricio Macri.
In theory, the Central Bank is independent, although scholars say it has long been used as a political tool of the government.
Supporters of Cristina Fernandez contend Judge Bonadio is part of a wing of the judiciary that conspired to destabilize her government, and they argue that she is being persecuted now that she is out of office. The ex president has branded her rivals in the judiciary as “the judicial party,” in a swipe at its impartiality.
“In this Argentina of revanchism and persecution, the judicial party is behaving like a mob,” lawmaker Eduardo de Pedro and a former chief of staff of Cristina Fernandez. “The objective is the persecution of Cristina”.
In a statement to the judge last month, Mrs. Kirchner claimed that Mr. Macri’s government had co-opted parts of the judiciary to damage her reputation and divert attention from the government’s new economic policies, like drastic cuts in energy and transport subsidies.
“Implementing the misery and structural adjustment program once again requires the use of defamation and slander,” the ex president wrote in the statement.