Argentina's vice-president and former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has been sentenced to six years in prison and given a lifelong ban on holding public office after being found guilty in a $1bn fraud case related to public works.
Fernández - who was president of Argentina for two terms between 2007 and 2015 - was found guilty on Tuesday, though she is unlikely to serve any prison time soon as she has immunity thanks to her government roles and is expected to launch a lengthy appeals process that could take years.
A three-judge panel rejected a charge of running a criminal organization, for which the sentence could have been 12 years in prison. The sentence marked the first time an Argentinian vice-president has been convicted of a crime while in office.
In a live stream after the verdict was announced, Fernández said that the charges against her were politically motivated. "This [the actions of the judiciary] is a parallel state and mafia," she said.
The verdict is certain to deepen fissures in Argentina, where the 69-year-old populist dominates the political landscape and recently survived a failed assassination attempt after her assailant's gun apparently jammed. Last month, Fernández compared her judges to a "firing squad".
Fernández was accused of arranging for 51 public works contracts in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz to be awarded to a company belonging to Lázaro Báez, a friend and business associate of Fernández de Kirchner and her husband, Néstor Kirchner, who was president of Argentina from 2003-2007.
Prosecutors said the Báez company was created to embezzle revenues through improperly bid projects that suffered from cost overruns and in many cases were never completed. The company disappeared after the Kirchners' 12 years in power, they said.
More details soon …