BUENOS AIRES - Argentine authorities carried out raids at homes owned by former President Cristina Fernandez on Thursday as part of a case investigating widespread corruption.
Fernandez, who is now a senator, has been accused of orchestrating a bribe scheme in the granting of public works contracts that has ensnared many of Argentina’s former officials and business elite.
She was among the 67 senators who approved the raids on three of her own properties late Wednesday following a request by a federal judge.
But it was unclear what investigators hoped to find as they searched in an apartment located in the Argentine capital with the assistance of a K-9 unit.
A crowd of journalists, curious onlookers and supporters of the ex-president gathered outside while at least a dozen police officers and other authorities wearing white jumpsuits and blue latex gloves looked through the residence. Authorities later arrived at one of Fernandez’ homes in southern Santa Cruz province.
The alleged scheme is based on an investigation by a local newspaper into corruption during the administrations of Fernandez and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. The investigation found that someone who helped deliver bags of cash to former officials in exchange for public contracts from 2005 to 2015 kept detailed notebooks. Fernandez’s private address and the presidential residence were allegedly among the places the money was sent.
Under a plea bargain agreement, several businessmen have admitted to paying bribes, and so far, at least 16 people have been arrested in the case. They include leaders of construction companies and former officials who served in Fernandez’s 2007-2015 administration.
Fernandez’s senatorial seat gives her immunity from prosecution. She denies any wrongdoing and says that she is being politically persecuted by a judge influenced by President Mauricio Macri to distract Argentines from the country's economic turmoil.
Argentina has one of the world’s highest inflation rates and Macri’s administration has been forced to seek out a financing deal with the International Monetary Fund following a sharp devaluation of its peso currency.
Credit agencies and analysts say that the scandal involving Fernandez has eroded trust and could affect investments in Latin America's third-largest economy.
Gregorio Dalbon, one of Fernandez’s attorneys, told The Associated Press that “media shows seek to hide the reality of Macri’s government” while the country is “falling apart into pieces.”