Former leader Cristina Fernandez is implicated in a huge corruption scheme that allegedly occurred during her presidency. Police have arrested 16 people, including former lawmakers and heads of construction companies.
Police in Argentina have raided the home of former President Cristina Fernandez as part of the so-called "notebooks" corruption case.
Some 20 police officers, accompanied by forensic scientists and dogs, entered her fifth-floor apartment in an exclusive Buenos Aires neighborhood just after noon local time on Thursday. The former leader was not home at the time.
Authorities moved in on Fernandez after Judge Claudio Bonadio, who is leading the investigation, successfully petitioned the Senate on Wednesday to partially lift her parliamentary immunity. She is suspected of having orchestrated a multimillion dollar graft scheme during her presidency from 2007 to 2015, which saw businessmen pay vast sums to government officials in exchange for public works contracts.
Now a senator, Fernandez enjoys congressional immunity from imprisonment but not from prosecution.
Two more raids are set to carried out at Fernandez's other two homes in Santa Cruz and El Calafate. Authorities have declined to disclose what they seek to uncover.
Also Thursday, police raided a convent on the outskirts of the Argentine capital where two years ago Jose Lopez, a former Fernandez administration official, was caught trying to hide a bag containing $8 million (€7 million) in cash. However, it also remained unclear what authorities were searching for this time around.
Fernandez denounces 'political persecution'
Shortly after having her immunity lifted, Fernandez denounced what she described as "political persecution" in a fiery speech before the chamber. Judge Bonadio, she added, was influenced by current President Mauricio Macri in a bid to distract the population from Argentina's economic turmoil.
Read more: Argentina agrees to $50-billion IMF loan
Fernandez did, however, approve the petition to search her properties along with all other senators present. The former president said she would allow the raids, provided there was no filming or photography.
One of her attorneys, Carlos Beraldi, berated the authorities after he was ejected from the Buenos Aires apartment during the raid. "This is a farce! It's a clear violation of the rule of law," Beraldi said, adding that he would make a criminal complaint against Bonadio.
What is the notebook investigation?
Fernandez is one of several lawmakers implicated in the notebooks corruption scandal, which allegedly took place under her administration and that of her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, who led Argentina from 2003 to 2007.
An investigation by the local La Nacion newspaper this month found that a ministerial chauffeur kept a notebook detailing each instance he delivered bags of cash to former officials between 2007 and 2015. Fernandez's private address and presidential residence reportedly appear in the notebook.
Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli said he believes a total of $160 million in bribes was handed over during a 10-year period from 2005 to 2015.
As part of a plea agreement with the authorities, several prominent businessmen have already admitted to paying bribes. Another 16 people have been arrested in connection with the case, including construction company chiefs and former lawmakers who served under Fernandez.
Earlier this month, one of Fernandez's former vice presidents, Amado Boudou, was sentenced to almost six years after he was found guilty of "passive bribery" and conduct that was "incompatible" with his duties as a public servant.
dm/cmk (AP, AFP)