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DomRep’s first lady fights bank account claim

Associated Press

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) – The first lady of the Dominican Republic filed a criminal complaint Tuesday charging a TV commentator falsified documents to support his claim that she has millions of dollars in an overseas bank.

Margarita Cedeno’s lawyer, Luis Miguel Pereyra, said he filed a criminal complaint against commentator Marcos Martinez because it would carry a harsher penalty than a civil lawsuit charging slander and defamation.

On Feb. 15, Martinez, a former legislator, claimed during one of his shows that Cedeno, the wife of President Leonel Fernandez, had $58 million in Denmark’s Danske Bank. He later claimed the actual amount was nearly $96 million.

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

Cedeno’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 Cedeno’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 Martinez first made the claim, Cedeno 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 Cedeno, who was a public employee working in the presidential office before she married Fernandez.

Martinez 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.

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 Cedeno and other government officials. Several bloggers and online news sites claimed that in one of the purported emails, Cedeno asked the wife of the president of the Dominican Republic’s largest private bank for financial backing for her campaign in the May election.

Cedeno, 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.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)