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Argentina’s Kirchner accused of defrauding state out of $bn 5.2

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner waves to supporters next to a policeman ahead of her court attendance to answer questions in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 11, 2016. © Reuters

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been charged with defrauding the state out of an alleged USD 5.2 billion.

Kirchner is accused of manipulating the country’s Central Bank to sell dollars at an artificially low price in the months before she left office.

Federal Judge Claudio Bonadio said it was “evident that the then president gave instructions -- which without a doubt were developed jointly -- to her economy minister to carry out the financial operation,” according to a statement released on the Supreme Court's website.

The judge said the state lost more than five billion dollars, allowing buyers to make big profits on the transactions. The sales also created a sharp drop in Central Bank reserves.

Bonadio ordered 15 million pesos' worth (USD 1 million) of Kirchner's assets to be frozen.

The indictment means prosecutors can move forward and put Kirchner on trial, who could face five to 20 years in prison if she is found guilty.

Bonadio delivered the same charge and asset freeze against Axel Kicillof, Kirchner's economy minister from 2013 to 2015, former Central Bank president Alejandro Vanoli and 12 other former members of its board.

Kirchner's defenders say that the issue cannot be taken to court as it concerns disagreements over monetary policy aimed at maintaining the value of the Argentine peso.

Kirchner, who was in power in 2007-15, left office in December 2015 after two consecutive terms.

The leftist former leader denies the accusations, saying she is the victim of political persecution. She can appeal against the court ruling.

Kirchner appeared in court in mid-April, where she refused to answer questions and instead presented a document demanding Bonadio's dismissal.

She has also been implicated in an embezzlement case, and along with her son, has been swept up in legal proceedings over irregularities in family real estate activities.

The indictment of Kirchner came a day after the president of neighboring Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended from office by the Senate while she is tried on charges of breaking budget rules.

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