Argentina's public prosecutor on Monday asked that Vice President Cristina Kirchner be sentenced to 12 years in prison and disqualified from public office for alleged corruption during her two terms as president.
Kirchner, 69, is accused of fraudulently awarding public works contracts in her fiefdom in Patagonia, but even if convicted she would not go to jail so long as she benefits from parliamentary immunity as an elected senator.
A verdict is expected at the end of the year.
There are two ways she could lose her parliamentary immunity: either by losing her senate seat at the next election, or if the Supreme Court were to ratify an eventual guilty verdict.
Minutes after public prosecutor Diego Luciani's request was made public, the office of President Alberto Fernandez issued a statement condemning "the judicial and media persecution" of Kirchner.
"None of the actions attributed to the ex-president has been proved and the whole accusation is based purely on the function she exercised at that time, which sadly degrades the most basic principles of modern criminal law."
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Another 12 people are also accused of involvement in the illicit attribution of public works contracts in the southern Santa Cruz province in favor of businessman Lazaro Baez.
The period investigated includes Kirchner's eight years in office from 2007 to 2015 and the preceding four years when her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who died in 2010, was president.
Luciani hit out at "an authentic system of institutional corruption" while Sergio Mola, another public prosecutor, said "there were systematic irregularities in the tenders over a 12-year period."
"The evidence clearly demonstrates illicit manoeuvres," added Mola, who said the defendants had sought to defraud the state through "discretion in the use of funds."
Highly divisive but still popular amongst the left, Kirchner has long proclaimed her innocence and accused the prosector's office of political persecution and "lawfare" -- the use of legal systems or institutions to discredit an opponent.
She has been investigated in recent years in a dozen different cases for crimes such as bribery, money laundering, speculative damage to the state and obstruction of justice.
Several of those have been dismissed but five remain active.