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Argentina's Vice President Cristina Fernandez sentenced in fraud case

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Vice President and former President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison for her role in a $1 billion fraud scheme. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI
Vice President and former President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison for her role in a $1 billion fraud scheme. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Vice President and former President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison Tuesday.

Fernández de Kirchner was charged with fraud in 2016 and convicted in February 2021. She is the first serving Argentinian vice president to ever be convicted of a crime.

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Fernández de Kirchner was accused of carrying out a scheme that illegally directed 51 public works contracts to a company belonging to her friend Lázaro Báez, who was also a business associate. She was allegedly rewarded for her role in this scheme with payments from the company.

The fraud scheme misdirected about $1 billion toward Báez. He is already serving a 12-year prison sentence after being convicted for money laundering last year. He was also sentenced to six years as the main beneficiary of the scheme with Fernández de Kirchner.

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The sentence laid down on Tuesday bars Fernández de Kirchner from ever holding office again.

According to The Guardian, Fernández de Kirchner is unlikely to serve time in prison due to immunities afforded to her by her position in office. She is allowed to remain free while she appeals her conviction, which is expected to be a lengthy process.

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"It is clear that the idea was always to convict me," she said after the verdict was announced. "This is a parallel state and mafia."

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Prosecutors originally sought a 12-year prison sentence.

While she may not serve her sentence, she said she will not run for office. She was suspected to be a likely candidate in the next presidential election in 2023.

Fernández de Kirchner served two terms as president from 2007 and 2015. In 2019, she became vice president with running mate Alberto Fernández winning the presidency. Prior to her time as president, her husband the late Néstor Kirchner served one term from 2003 to 2007. He died of a heart attack in 2011.

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During her term as president and after she left office she was embroiled in scandal and controversy. Her harsh tax policies were met with strikes and Argentina was pushed into technical default by a failing economy.

Then in 2015, she was accused of trying to subvert an investigation into a 1994 car bombing outside of a Jewish community building. Fernández de Kirchner was accused of coordinating a cover up with Iran, which was alleged to be responsible for the bombing. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead of a gunshot wound the day before he was meant to testify before Congress.

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