Argentina: Court Issues Arrest Warrants for Ex-President Carlos Menem

Article excerpt

Argentine judges have issued two international arrest warrants for former president Carlos Menem (1989-1999), asking Interpol to track him down after he failed to appear in court for corruption and tax fraud investigations. Menem, 73, is accused of using public funds fraudulently during his 10-year presidency. He also faces an investigation into undeclared funds held in Swiss bank accounts and charges of illegal arms trafficking to Ecuador and Croatia during his time in office.

Judges issue two warrants in criminal inquiries

Two warrants for Menem's arrest came out within a week of one another in late April. Federal judge Jorge Urso, investigating allegations of embezzlement, has called the former president in for questioning on three previous occasions, but Menem failed to appear each time. Urso's court is looking into the embezzlement of up to US$60 million during the construction of two prisons.

Judge Norberto Oyarbide had also asked Menem to appear in his court on three previous occasions to respond to allegations that he hid a Swiss bank account containing US$600,000 from tax authorities. When the former president failed to show a fourth time, Oyarbide decided to initiate extradition proceedings.

Menem is currently living in neighboring Chile with his wife and newborn son. He denies the allegations against him, saying he is the victim of a political vendetta orchestrated by the government of Nestor Kirchner. Kirchner defeated Menem in Argentina's last presidential elections.

In 2001, Urso's court put Menem under house arrest because of charges that he trafficked arms to Croatia during a 1991-93 U.N. arms embargo against the Balkan country and to Ecuador while that country conducted a border war against Peru in 1995 (see NotiSur, 2001-07-13 and 2001-06-15).

Ex-president living luxurious exile in Santiago

Having been imprisoned three times before, Menem has vowed not to go before a judge again. He currently lives in Zapellar, on Chile's Pacific coast, with his wife Cecilia Bolocco, a former Miss Universe, and their son Maximo Saul, who was born in November. Multiple reports describe their dwelling as "luxurious."

Menem told the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio that he lives in Chile on a budget of US$10,000 per month and lacks assets in that country. "All I am enjoying right now is Cecilia. This house, the one in Miami," he said, contributed somewhat to the expenses of his marriage. He also said that he received no pension as an ex-president. "They denied that to me. I do have a law practice which gives me a revenue of U$10,000 monthly. With the vineyards, we are in deficit." Despite the deficit, Menem decided to give his wife a champagne-colored 2004 Mercedes Benz for her birthday in the last week of March, according to Santiago weekly Glamorama. …