Argentine judge orders Kirchner's artwork be confiscated

Buenos Aires (AFP) –


An Argentine judge has ordered the seizure of more than 30 pieces of art owned by former president Cristina Kirchner, currently awaiting trial for corruption.

Argentine media said the artworks were worth $4 million.

The seizure took place on Thursday night, judicial sources said, at Kirchner's Buenos Aires residence in the trendy Recoleta neighborhood.

It had been ordered in August when judge Claudio Bonadio gave investigators the green light to search Kirchner's three properties after parliament had partially lifted the immunity her current role as a senator affords her.

She is accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes and running a criminal network related to the infamous "corruption notebooks" scandal -- revealed through the meticulous records of millions of dollars in bribes paid by businessmen to government officials kept by a ministerial chauffeur.

Reacting to the confiscations on Twitter, Kirchner posted the front page of the Clarin daily newspaper and commented on the juxtaposition of its two main stories: a hike by the current government in tariffs on public services and her artworks being removed.

"Today, December 28, is the Day of the Innocents," said Kirchner before accusing Clarin of trying "to make you believe that there was a museum in my house so you get angry about that and not the new tariffs on light, gas and transport."

President Mauricio Macri's government announced on Thursday big increases in tariffs on public services. In Buenos Aires those will amount to around 40 percent on transport, 35 percent on gas and 55 percent on electricity for 2019, in a country that recently entered recession and with almost 50 percent inflation this year.

Kirchner is leading polls alongside Macri ahead of presidential elections next October.

But she is embroiled in a corruption scandal that could derail her hopes of returning to the presidential palace -- Casa Rosada -- for a third time.

Last week a federal court accepted Bonadio's request that she be held in pre-trial detention pending her case reaching court -- although her parliamentary immunity, which protects her from prison but not prosecution, prevents that from happening.

The court also seized 1.5 billion pesos ($38 million) worth of her assets.

Both Kirchner, 65, and her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor, are suspected of having received millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen in exchange for large-scale public works contracts.

The payments were documented by ministerial chauffeur Oscar Centeno in notebooks seized by investigators.

More than a dozen former government officials and 30 top businessman are implicated in the case.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli has said a total of $160 million in bribes was handed over between 2005 and 2015.