Argentine judge summons Fernandez for questioning in fraud probe

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner adjusts her hair before addressing attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - An Argentine judge has summoned former President Cristina Fernandez for questioning in a probe into the sale of dollar future contracts at below market rates by the central bank just months before she handed over power in December.

Judge Claudio Bonadio also summoned Fernandez’s former economy minister, Axel Kicillof, and former central bank chief Alejandro Vanoli on suspicions of defrauding the public administration with the sale of $17 billion of contracts.

Bonadio summoned the former populist leader to appear for questioning on April 13 at 10 a.m. as the last of 13 suspects in the case.

Under Fernandez, the central bank routinely sold dollar futures to prop up the peso, partly in an attempt to anchor double-digit inflation in Latin America’s No. 3 economy.

Two lawmakers last October filed a complaint alleging that the price at which the contracts were sold constituted a serious financial loss for the state.

During Vanoli’s short time at the helm, the bank was selling March contracts at 10.65 pesos per dollar when these contracts were trading at between 14 and 15 pesos on Wall Street.

The peso is already trading at 15.47 per dollar.

Vanoli has denied wrongdoing and said the bank’s interventions in the futures market were transparent and in line with exchange rates projected in the budget.

Many Argentines want new President Mauricio Macri’s administration to investigate suspected irregularities and corruption under Fernandez’s government.

Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Leslie Adler