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Argentina ex-president, cabinet members indicted on corruption charges

[JURIST] Former Argentine president Carlos Menem [official profile; BBC profile] was indicted by the Federal Court on Tuesday on corruption charges. Menem is charged [Buenos Aires Herald report] with overpaying government officials while he was in office from 1989 to 1999. Menem's well-known minister of economy, Domingo Cavallo [G30 profile], was indicted on similar charges. Cavallo is known for his economic reforms [World Bank backgrounder] from 1991 to 1996, which decreased Argentina's inflation rate from 1,300 percent in 1990 to close to zero by the end of his term. Menem and Cavallo's reforms, which pegged Argentina's peso to the dollar, were abandoned in 2002 after the appreciation of the dollar caused large deficits and led to another economic recession [World Bank assessment]. Ten other government officials were also indicted for corruption, including Menem's former justice minister Raul Granillo Ocampo and former environmental secretary Maria Julia Alsogaray. The court has frozen the politicians' assets totaling more than USD $171,000.

This indictment is not the first to befall the former president. In October, an Argentine judge charged [JURIST report] Menem with allegedly covering up evidence related to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Menem, born in Argentina to Syrian immigrants, is accused of covering up the alleged involvement of Syrian-Argentine businessman Alberto Kanoore Edul. The court also indicted Menem's brother Munir Menem, former intelligence chief Hugo Anzorregui, retired judge Juan Jose Galeano, former deputy secretary of intelligence Juan Carlos Anchezar, and former police commissioner Jorge Palacios. Argentine prosecutors have alleged that the bombing, which killed 85 and injured more than 200, was planned by Iranian officials and carried out by Hezbollah [BBC backgrounder]. Menem is currently a sitting senator representing the Rioja Province and is protected by judicial immunity. He cannot be arrested for the crimes listed in these indictments unless he is impeached by the legislature.

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