An appeals court ordered Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello to investigate ex-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and other former government officials as part of the money laundering probe involving businessman Lázaro Báez.
Báez, a close associate of the Kirchner family, has been prosecuted for alleged money laundering. His fortune was made as his company Austral Construcciones won a number of contracts for public works between 2003 and 2015, during the Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández presidencies.
“It seems logical to suspect a close link between the lucrative public works awarded to Báez (and his businesses) and the relationship he had with former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner,” read yesterday’s ruling.
The court ordered Casanello to “act on the suspicions that link the long list of public works contracts that benefitted Lázaro Báez’s companies with the illicit origin of his assets, in parallel with the personal and commercial relationship he had with the highest authorities in the Executive.”
Aside from the former presidents, other members of the former government under investigation include ex-Planning Minister Julio de Vido and ex-Public Works Secretary José López, who was arrested last month when trying to hide US$9 million in a convent.
The harshly-worded ruling also criticised Casanello for persisting with a “mistaken focus in the investigation.”
Casanello and Federal Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuan maintain that the investigation into potential irregularities with public works contracts was being handled by another judge, Julián Ercolini. Marijuan added today that his case already includes evidence gathering that may connect Báez with the former presidents.
Fernández responded yesterday by criticising the judges in the appeals court for “abusing their position” and over-stepping their constitutional role by ordering Casanello to focus his case on her rather than just reviewing the defence appeals.
“What guarantee of impartiality can any citizen hope for when the same judges that should evaluate a case impartially are those that accuse, and moreover doing this based on false evidence that has been invented by the same serial accusers?” she wrote in a Facebook note.
The ruling came on a day when Judge Claudio Bonadio ordered a number of raids in properties connected to former president Fernández in Santa Cruz cities of Río Gallegos, El Calafate and El Chaltén.
The raids were undertaken as part of the investigation into potential money laundering and embezzlement by the ex-president through the rental of properties by the Los Sauces company that she part-owns.
Fernández condemned the raids on social media, calling them part of a “campaign of persecution and defamation against the government I presided over.”
“They are trying to create a new crime: that of belonging to the government in office from 2003 to 2015,” Fernández wrote.