Former Argentine Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti has been sentenced to three years in jail for fraud and embezzlement, although the execution of the sentence has been suspended, it was announced Monday.
Picolotti headed the strategic government office at the time of the controversy between Uruguay and Argentine over the settling of the Botnia pulp mills which resulted in protests blocking an international bridge crossing.
She held her position under former Presidents Néstor and Cristina Kirchner. Picolotti, who resides now in Miami and appeared at the court hearing through a virtual connection, had filed for her acquittal.
But Federal Oral Court (TOF) 6 made up of Justices Sabrina Namer, Rodrigo Giménez Uriburu and Guillermo Costabel handed down a three year suspended jail sentence for the use of public funds for personal expenses. Picolotti was also disenfranchised for life from holding any public office.
The prosecution had requested three years and nine months in prison. Any sentence over three years cannot be suspended under Argentine law.
Picolotti had claimed in her online appearances she had not committed any crime. But the court found that between 2006 and 2008 she diverted money from the secretariat towards gifts, meals, plane tickets for her, her family and friends, and even the rental of private jets.
I deeply regret that the State has spent 14 years of resources, especially the time of the magistrates present here, for what is evident, that I did not commit any crime, Picolotti said Monday morning before the sentence was known.
“I am accused of eating chorizo steaks and Schnitzel veal sandwiches, but those who know me know that I am a vegetarian. Also to buy wines and beers when I don't drink alcohol,” Picolotti had told the court.
Picolotti's office reported to the Cabinet Chief, who at that time was no other than current President Alberto Fernández.