In a surprise move, a three-judge panel found sitting Vice President and former President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner guilty of corruption related to a billion-dollar public works fraud case.

The panel found Fernández guilty of aggravated fraud and leading a conspiracy to award public works contracts to a friend, though a charge of running a criminal organization was dismissed by the panel before handing down a six-year jail sentence for the vice president as well as a lifelong ban from office, according to the BBC.

Fernández, who served two terms as President between 2007 and 2015, is unlikely to serve any of that jail time due to the immunity granted to her by holding important government roles. She is also likely to start a lengthy process to appeal the judgment and sentencing, The Guardian reported.

The former president has been accused by the prosecutors of running an “unlawful partnership” that granted her kickbacks and bribes from a friend of hers in return for public work contracts. The alleged friend, construction company owner Lázaro Báez, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last year for money laundering.

The scheme, which has put over 13 people on trial including Báez and Fernández, reportedly cost the government over $1 billion.

The vice president has denied all of the charges against her and has accused the judiciary of putting out a politically-motivated suit. She has called them “a parallel state and mafia” after the ruling was released, and has previously compared them to a “firing squad” in an interview.

The case and ruling is proving to be a controversial matter in Argentina, as supporters of Fernández and her husband, fellow former president Néstor Kirchner, go to the streets to show their backing of the incumbent vice president. The tensions has led to an assassination attempt against her on September, with the gunman being charged with attempted murder.

She is expected to be able to continue to run for office as the appeals process in Argentina tends to take years to finish.

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
Representation image. Photo by Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images

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