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An Argentinian federal court convicted Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of fraud and sentenced her to six years in prison Tuesday, a ruling that deals a major blow to the embattled leftist government of President Alberto Fernández, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The court ruled that Fernández – who is not related to the president – was found guilty of embezzling money through public-construction contracts from 2007 to 2015 when she served as the country’s president. It also ordered the longtime politician to be permanently banned from holding political office.
Prosecutors allege Fernández and others conspired to steal over $1 billion from false contracts and 51 fake public works projects during her presidency.
The ruling makes Fernández the first vice president in the country to be tried and convicted on graft charges while in office.
The leftist leader rejected the accusations and said she was the victim of political persecution.
Fernández has long been a divisive personality in Argentina, regarded by her supporters as a champion of the poor, but others blame her for the country’s ongoing economic problems, notably inflation, which is anticipated to reach 100 percent by the end of the year, NPR added.
Even so, she plans to appeal the verdict, which legal analysts say could drag the case on for years and hinder authorities from banning her from public office.
Meanwhile, the verdict is likely to erode support for President Fernández. whose approval rating is at about 18 percent. Argentina is grappling with one of the worst economic crises it has seen in two decades.
President Fernández introduced a series of austerity measures and cut energy subsidies earlier this year as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund to refinance $44 billion in debt to avoid a default.