A court in Argentina has sentenced former President Carlos Menem to four and half years in prison for embezzlement.

The official judicial news agency said Tuesday that the local court also sentenced former Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo to three years and six months for his role in illegal payments to staffers authorized by Menem during his presidency.

An investigation showed that Menem and Cavallo were part of a scheme to overpay officials and later split the take among all of those involved. The overpayments were intended for security and intelligence expenses.

Menem was president from 1989-1999 and is now a senator. The 85-year-old was absent from the proceedings citing health problems. The court also decided to disqualify both from ever holding public office. They deny any wrongdoing.