Former president Kirchner appears in Argentine court over corruption

Update: September, 04/2018 - 10:50

BUENOS AIRES — Former president Cristina Kirchner appeared in court on Monday for the second time in relation to a corruption case that has rocked Argentina’s political and business elites.

Two weeks after the Senate voted to partially lift senator Kirchner’s congressional immunity so that investigators could search her three homes for evidence linking her to the so-called notebooks corruption case, she was back before Claudio Bonadio, the judge leading the corruption investigation.

She was questioned for half an hour on Monday morning, having also been interviewed last month.

Kirchner submitted a letter to the judge reiterating her "categorical and strict denial" that she "committed any crime" or was involved in "any illicit activity."

The 65-year-old, president from 2007 to 2015 after succeeding her late husband Nestor, is suspected of having accepted millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen in exchange for public works contracts.

More than a dozen former government officials and 30 elite businessman are implicated in the case first reported by La Nacion newspaper on August 1, claiming that millions in bribes were delivered by a ministerial chauffeur to Kirchner’s residences, both during her presidency and her husband’s.

Her former vice president Amado Boudou has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for "passive bribery" and conduct "incompatible" with his duties as a public servant.

Kirchner, though, remains defiant and told Bonadio in her letter that his investigation had "destroyed each and every guarantee that makes up due process" without producing "the minimum proof to justify the crimes with which I have scandalously been accused."

Facing trial in several other corruption cases, she has previously accused Bonadio of carrying out "judicial persecutions" aimed at derailing a possible run for the presidency next year.

She has compared her case to that of former Brazilian president and fellow leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is serving a 12-year jail sentence for accepting a bribe and was on Friday barred from standing in next month’s presidential election.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of $160 million in bribes was handed over during a 10-year period from 2005-15, allegedly from business leaders to politicians in exchange for public works contracts, all meticulously recorded by a government driver. — AFP