Argentina's VP Sentenced to 6 Years in $1B Fraud Case

But Cristina Fernández's sentence isn't firm until appeals are decided
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 7, 2022 12:00 AM CST
Argentina's VP Found Guilty of Fraud
Supporters of Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez, a former president, gather outside the court where judges are expected to announce the verdict in a corruption case against her in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández was convicted and sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office for a fraud scheme that embezzled $1 billion through public works projects during her presidency, the AP reports. A three-judge panel found the Peronist leader guilty of fraud, but rejected a charge of running a criminal organization, for which the sentence could have been 12 years in prison. It was the first time an Argentine vice president has been convicted of a crime while in office. Fernández lashed out at the verdict, describing herself as the victim of a “judicial mafia.” But she also later announced that she would not run next year for the presidency, a post she previously held in 2007-2015.

The sentence isn’t firm until appeals are decided, a process that could take years. She will remains immune from arrest meanwhile. Fernández's supporters vowed to paralyze the country with a nationwide strike. They clogged downtown Buenos Aires and marched on the federal court building, beating drums and shouting as they pressed against police barriers. Fernández roundly denied all the accusations. Argentina's dominant leader this century, she was accused of improperly granting public works contracts to a construction magnate closely tied to her family. The verdict is certain to deepen fissures in the South American nation, where politics can be a blood sport and the 69-year-old populist leader is either loved or hated.

Fernández went on her YouTube channel to say she will not seek further office after her vice presidential term expires on Dec. 10, 2023. "I’m not going to be a candidate for anything, not president, not for senator. My name is not going to be on any ballot. I finish on December 10 and go home,” she said. Politicians and analysts had noted that until her appeal is settled, Fernández would be free to run for any elected office—from a seat in Congress to the presidency—and obtain immunity arrest by being elected. During the judicial process, the vice president called herself a victim of “lawfare” and characterized the Judiciary as a pawn of the opposition media and conservative politician Mauricio Macri, who succeeded her as president in 2015-2019. Meanwhile, other cases remain pending against her, including a charge of money-laundering that also involves her son and daughter.

(More Cristina Fernandez stories.)

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