Dominican First Lady Hits Back on Bank Account Allegation

 (2006 Getty Images)

In an ongoing tit-for-tat over explosive allegations about corruption, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, Margarita Cedeño filed a criminal complaint over a TV commentator's allegations that she has a secret stash of cash in a Denmark bank.

Filed Tuesday, the complaint charged a TV commentator Marcos Martínez  falsified documents to support his claim that she has millions of dollars in an overseas bank.

Margarita Cedeño's lawyer, Luis Miguel Pereyra, said he filed a criminal complaint rather than a civil lawsuit charging slander and defamation because it would carry a harsher penalty.

On Feb. 15, Martínez, a former legislator, claimed on television that Cedeño, wife of President Leonel Fernández, had $58 million in Denmark's Danske Bank. He later claimed the actual amount was nearly $96 million.

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"I repeat my claim," he said last week. "All the documents are there. I made the corresponding accusation. I will not recant."

Cedeño's attorney said he has given state prosecutors documents in which Danske Bank certifies that the first lady does not have an account there.

Pereyra said the lawsuit is meant to clear Cedeño's name and added that if she is awarded the $256,000 she seeks in damages, it will be donated to a hospital.

A day after Martínez first made the claim, Cedeño posted a video link on her Twitter account criticizing the allegation, saying "nor as a mother, nor as a wife, nor as a first lady will I ever allow garbage to be thrown upon me."

It was the only public comment on the issue from Cedeño, who was a public employee working in the presidential office before she married Fernández.

Martínez had no immediate comment on the criminal complaint and it wasn't known if had a lawyer. He said Monday that if proof was presented in court that the bank account did not exist, he would accept the court's findings.

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Prosecutor Luisa Liranzo said she was reviewing the lawsuit and would begin an investigation.

Last month, police raided the office and home of the manager of an online newspaper suspected of hacking into emails of Cedeño and other government officials. Several bloggers and online news sites claimed that in one of the purported emails, Cedeño asked the wife of the president of the Dominican Republic's largest private bank for financial backing for her campaign in the May election.

Cedeño, a 46-year-old lawyer, is running for vice president. She rejected calls by supporters to run the presidency and succeed her husband, who is barred from seeking a third term.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press

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