(AP) — Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernández was convicted and sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison and a lifetime ban from holding public office for a fraud scheme that embezzled $1 billion through public works projects during her presidency.
A three-judge panel found the Peronist leader guilty of fraud but rejected a charge of running a criminal organisation, for which the sentence could have been 12 years in prison.
It was the first time an Argentine vice president has been convicted of a crime while in office.
Fernández lashed out at the verdict, describing herself as the victim of a “judicial mafia.”
But she also later announced that she would not run next year for the presidency, a post she previously held from 2007-2015.
The sentence isn’t firm until appeals are decided, a process that could take years.
She will remain immune from arrest meanwhile.
Fernández’s supporters vowed to paralyse the country with a nationwide strike.
They clogged downtown Buenos Aires and marched on the federal court building, beating drums and shouting as they pressed against police barriers.
Fernández roundly denied all the accusations.
Argentina’s dominant leader this century, she was accused of improperly granting public works contracts to a construction magnate closely tied to her family.