Charges brought against Argentina's former President Cristina Fernandez

Argentina's former President Cristina Fernandez in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.

Argentina's former President Cristina Fernandez in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.  (AP)

A federal judge approved charges against Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernandez in connection with a corruption case that allegedly benefited a family friend during her and her late husband’s combined 12 years in office.

Fernandez was indicted Tuesday and will be processed for allegedly steering public contracts to millionaire businessman Lazaro Baez, who is currently being tried in an embezzling and money laundering case.

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Prosecutors began looking into Baez after a 2013 journalistic investigation named him as Fernandez's figurehead in an elaborate scheme. The news report said Baez used his companies to launder money for her and her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Since Fernandez ended her term in December, the new administration has promised to crack down on the corruption that has long plagued Argentina. Analysts say that has emboldened judges who are now more independent to pursue sensitive cases against the former leader and her close circle without fear of retribution.

Fernandez has always dismissed the accusations as lies, saying they are politically motivated.

Fernandez and Kirchner were the most dominant political leaders to come out of Argentina in decades and are often credited with lifting the country out of its worst economic crisis in 2001. But detractors say their social policies contributed to spiraling inflation and criticize her combative rhetoric, the couple's personal enrichment, and their ties to scandals.

Over the past months, prosecutors were looking into the financial transactions at several top hotels owned by the Kirchner family in the southern province of Santa Cruz, where Fernandez has been living since she stepped down from office.

Local news reports say the hotels are usually empty, raising questions about how they generate the income they report.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.