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Ex-Argentine leader Kirchner charged, $633M frozen in corruption case

Doug G. Ware
Former Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner inspects a military honor guard during a ceremony on July 13, 2010. On Tuesday, a federal judge approved criminal corruption charges against the former two-term president stemming from accusations that she unlawfully steered dozens of government contracts to a business acquaintance. Kirchner has denied the charges and is expected to file an appeal. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
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A judge on Tuesday approved criminal corruption charges against former Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and ordered frozen more than $630 million of her assets, pending the outcome of a federal trial.
Judge Julian Ercolini supported charges of illicit association and fraudulent administration against the ex-leader, for allegedly steering dozens of government contracts to a personal business acquaintance.
The judge outlined the charges in a 794-page resolution Tuesday, which says Kirchner conspired "to commit crimes, in order to illegally and deliberately seize funds assigned to public road works."
Kirchner, who endured multiple corruption scandals while she was in office between 2007 and 2015, has denied any wrongdoing and said the prosecution is politically-motivated. Defense attorneys said they will appeal.
In addition to upholding the criminal charges, Ercolini also ordered $633 million of Kirchner's assets to be frozen pending the outcome of the prosecution.
Charges in the case were also approved Tuesday against two former Kirchner aides, as well as Argentine construction magnate Lazaro Báez -- whose company, Austral Construcciones, was allegedly the illegal recipient of about 50 government contracts.
Báez, whose name was mentioned in multiple scandals tied to Kirchner, opened his construction business just days before she took office in 2007. Once open, prosecutors argue, the company was awarded many public works projects and consistently over-billed the government for them. The prosecutors' case covers a 12-year period that started when Kirchner was first lady of Argentina in 2003.
Kirchner left office in December 2015 following eight years of various accusations of corruption. Her late husband and predecessor, Néstor, was also targeted by scandals during his time in office.
A trial of the former leader could drag on for years, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. If convicted, Kirchner could face as many as 10 years in prison.

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