Federal Court No. 2 ruled Monday that the trial investigating former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for alleged corruption offences related to public works projects in Santa Cruz Province will continue, rejecting requests from the defence to suspend the trial.
The decision came after almost two hours of court proceedings and related to more than 51 statements from defence lawyers for the 13 individuals on trial. It was read in the absence of the Frente de Todos vice-presidential candidate, who is currently in Cuba visiting her daughter, Florencia Kirchner. The court said the trial would re-commence on September 3, with Fernández de Kirchner and another 12 defendants in the dock.
As well as the former president, former Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido, ex-Public Works secretary José López , Kirchnerite-allied businessman Lázaro Báez and nine others are on trial.
The trial, which opened in May and is likely last at least another year, addresses multiple corruption allegations dating from Fernandez de Kirchner’s two terms as president (2007 to 2015). These include accusations she received kickbacks from construction firms engaged in public works projects in the southern province of Santa Cruz, the strongland of the Kirchner family. In particular, Fernández de Kirchner stands accused of having favoured Báez in the award of 52 public works contracts worth 46 billion pesos (US$1.2 billion) during both her presidency and that of her late husband Néstor Kirchner.
The former president's defence team told reporters outside the court they had not ruled out further appeals against the court's decision, potentially taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
The indictment alleges that many of the works contracts awarded in Santa Cruz province were overpriced and, although they were paid for, were never completed. Before the case began, the former president's defence team had requested that the trial be suspended until the results of a financial assessment of those works contracts was completed.
The results were published on Monday and "showed that the people who are accused didn't commit the crimes for which they're being tried," Kirchner's lawyer Gregorio Dalbon told reporters.
"The experts confirmed there was no overcharging in the five works that were assessed," Dalbon said.
"The trial is over, it's void. It's undefined. There's no substance and there's no proof," he added.
"The issue is over but TOC 2 [the court] is very predictable. It would be shameful for them to finish the trial and prove us right. The trial should never have started," he told the El Destape radio station in a separate interview.
The federal court has however decided to continue the trial, and Dalbon said he had not ruled out appealing to the chamber of cassation or the Supreme Court. Fernández de Kirchner's lawyers previously submitted numerous appeals, but the Supreme Court decided in May that the trial would go ahead.
Fernández de Kirchner, 66, faces a host of other trials relating to alleged corruption offences and has five court orders requesting her pre-trial detention. She is exempt from being jailed due to her privileges as a sitting senator for Buenos Aires Province.
She denies the allegations and charges that they are part of a campaign of judicial "persecution" designed to keep her from office.