Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Argentina investigates ex-leader

Nestor Kirchner
Nestor Kirchner was succeeded as president by his wife

Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner is to be investigated by a court over corruption allegations.

A senior judge said the probe would also look at certain aspects of Mr Kirchner's links with the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez.

Mr Kirchner, who has made no comment, is married to current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The investigation was launched at the request of opposition leader and former presidential candidate Elisa Carrio.

Prosecutors said the evidence submitted by her was sufficient to warrant a judicial inquiry.

Venezuela contract

The allegations against Mr Kirchner and two former government ministers centre on 30 alleged cases of corruption dating back to his presidency, which ended last year.

Ms Carrio alleges the former president and several top government officials distributed big construction contracts and government-owned licenses to drill for oil in return for financial rewards.

The investigation will also examine a contract signed in 2004 by Mr Kirchner and his Venezuelan counterpart.

Elisa Carrio
Elisa Carrio stood against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Under the terms of the agreement, Argentina was to buy Venezuelan fuel and in return Venezuela would purchase Argentine manufactured goods.

It is alleged that $90m (61m) in Argentine government funds used to complete to deal have disappeared without a trace.

The BBC's Greg Morsbach says this is not the first time Argentina's relationship with Venezuela has come under close scrutiny.

A court in the US recently jailed two Venezuelan businessmen for illegally acting as agents of the Venezuelan government on US soil in an effort to silence a man who smuggled a suitcase filled with $800,000 in cash into Argentina.

US prosecutors say the cash was sent by Caracas to fund the presidential election campaign of Mrs Fernandez de Kirchner.

The Venezuelan and Argentine governments have rejected the allegations, saying the trial was politically motivated.

A Uruguayan has also been jailed for his involvement in the case.

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