Former president of Argentina in arms trade conviction

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A FORMER president of Argentina was among 12 people convicted yesterday of smuggling weapons to Ecuador and Croatia in the 1990s, in contravention of international embargoes.

Carlos Menem, now 82, had been acquitted at trial in 2011. But the appeal court yesterday overturned his acquittal, and ruled there was no way the weapons could have been smuggled without Menem’s direct participation and support.

Menem, who is now a senator and immune from prosecution, acknowledged signing secret decrees to export weaponry to Venezuela and Panama, but denied knowing that the shipments would end up in Ecuador and Croatia.

The appeal court called his defence “incomprehensible”. The court found that Menem’s brother-in-law and “man of confidence,” Emir Yoma, acted as his intermediary with the government authorities and others involved in the scheme, and that Yoma also collected money from the companies involved.

“The only person with enough power to influence simultaneously, and over all these years, three different government ministries, their various agencies, the Argentine army and even congress, was the president of the nation, Carlos Saul Menem, through Yoma,” the court ruled.