Argentine judge orders case involving ex-President Fernandez to trial

FILE PHOTO: Argentina's Former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner arrives to the Comodoro Py courthouse before her second hearing of a corruption trial, in Buenos Aires, Argentina May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A federal judge in Argentina on Friday ordered a case involving ex-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to go to trial over allegations that public construction projects were awarded to firms that paid bribes to government officials.

The order to stand trial was laid out in court papers published on the judiciary’s official website. Fernandez, now running for vice president in the Oct. 27 general election, was Argentina’s leader from 2007 through 2015.

Julio De Vido, who served for 12 years as planning minister under Fernandez and her late husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner, was sentenced to five years and eight months jail time last year as part of the probe into what has come to be known as the “notebooks” case.

The scandal surfaced last year after local media obtained diaries kept by the chauffeur of a former government official, which investigators have said cataloged bribe payments from construction companies that were delivered to government offices and Fernandez private residences.

Despite multiple allegations of corruption, all of which Fernandez denies, the veteran Peronist politician remains loved by millions of lower-income Argentines who benefited from generous social spending during her two terms in office.

The self-described populist maintains that the charges against her are politically motivated.

Once expected to be the main challenger to President Mauricio Macri in the October vote, she is now running on a ticket alongside unrelated Peronist moderate Alberto Fernandez, who served as chief of cabinet under Nestor Kirchner.

The judge overseeing the corruption case, Claudio Bonadio, has requested that Congress strip Fernandez of the immunity from arrest that she enjoys as a national senator. The legislature is not, however, expected to grant that request.

Reporting by Gabriel Burin and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Leslie Adler