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News > Argentina

Argentina: Menem and Cavallo Sentenced to Jail for Embezzlement...Again

  • Former Argentine President Carlos Menem looks on in a court room before hearing the verdict in the trial of covering up the 1994 AMIA bombing.

    Former Argentine President Carlos Menem looks on in a court room before hearing the verdict in the trial of covering up the 1994 AMIA bombing. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 March 2019

In December 1991, Menem authorized the sale of a property for US$30 million, when its real value was estimated to "at least," US$132 million.

An Argentine Federal Criminal Court sentenced former President Carlos Menem and his Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo to jail for embezzlement on the count of irregularities in the sale of state-owned property in Buenos Aires, back in the 1990s.

Argentina: The Return Of Barter, After 2001 'Corralito' Crisis

According to the ruling, Menem is the "responsible author for the crime," and Cavallo a "participant of the embezzlement." The former president (1989 - 1999), and current Senator received a conviction of three years and nine months, while his Minister of Economy (1991- 1996) got three years and six months. As well as getting barred for life from holding public office.

The case involves the sale of a public plot of land named “La Rural” (The Rural), located in Palermo, a Buenos Aires neighborhood. Back in December 1991, the government authorized the Argentine Rural Society (SRA) to purchase it for US$30 million, when, according to the Supreme Court experts, its real value at that time was estimated to "at least," US$ 132 million. Meaning that the Argentine state suffered a loss of almost US$100 million.

The new sentence is for effective compliance, but will not be put into effect until the ruling is finalized in the superior instance of the Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation, as Menem enjoys immunity as a senator. If this happens before the expiration of Menem’s parliamentary mandate, an impeachment will be requested to the Upper Chamber of Argentina's Congress. 

However, this is not the first time both former public officials have been accused and sentenced for corruption. In 2015, a federal court in Argentina found Menem and Cavallo guilty of embezzlement, regarding a scheme to make overpayments to high-ranking intelligence officers and keeping a share of the illegal payments for themselves. 

Also in 2013, Menem was sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in a plot to smuggle weapons and ammunition to Ecuador and Croatia. The ruling was not implemented, as they enjoyed parliamentary immunity. 

The Menem administration ruled the country for 10 years during the 1990s. Right after he took power, he quickly became an "IMF poster boy," as structural and austerity measures decimated the Argentine economy. This led to a bank run and a crisis known as "El Corralito" (the little barnyard), where people had to exchange products or talents for products, as the usage of cash was blocked.

One example of this crisis behavior would be dentists who would exchange treatment for a bottle of oil. At the climax of the 2001 crisis, the unemployment rate hit 20 percent and poverty hit 50 percent according to El Pais. Carvallo was also Ministery of Economy during this period, under former President Fernando de la Rua. 

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