BUENOS AIRES – A federal judge on Friday ruled that former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez should stand trial on illicit association charges related to the awarding of public-works contracts during her 2007-2015 administration, judicial officials said.
The ruling was issued by Judge Julian Ercolini, who is heading up the investigation.
The case involves alleged “multiple irregularities” in the awarding of public-works projects to Grupo Austral – owned by businessman Lazaro Baez – in the southern province of Santa Cruz.
Fernandez’s late husband and predecessor as head of state, Nestor Kirchner, was governor of that province from 1991 to 2003.
Thirteen people will stand trial in the case, including Fernandez, who is currently a senator; Baez; former Planning Minister Julio De Vido; and Carlos Santiago Kirchner, a cousin of Nestor Kirchner’s.
Friday’s ruling states that Fernandez, while president, “is suspected of harming the public interest by breaching her duty to faithfully administer and protect the national government’s assets.”
De Vido, who was planning minister during Fernandez’s two terms, is accused of “harming the public interest by making economic and administrative decisions” related to the public-works projects under scrutiny.
According to the ruling, officials acted to “provide Lazaro Antonio Baez with illicit gains” to the detriment of the nation’s coffers.
The alleged scheme involved the “formal conversion” of Baez, a former treasurer at Banco Santa Cruz who was a friend of both Nestor Kirchner’s and his wife and a partner of theirs in “numerous commercial transactions,” into a “construction entrepreneur.”
The ruling states that Baez founded the company Austral Construcciones “a few days before” Nestor Kirchner became Argentina’s president in May 2003.
Fernandez’s legal woes extend beyond the illicit association case.
She also has been ordered to stand trial over alleged irregularities in the sale of dollar futures contracts by the Central Bank at below-market rates during her tenure as president.
The ex-president also has been indicted for allegedly seeking to cover up Iran’s purported role in a deadly 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead.
Fernandez has maintained her innocence and says all the charges against her are politically motivated.
She has immunity from arrest, though not from trial, as a sitting senator.