November 28, 2014
The moment of truth: judge calls Boudou for questioning as suspect
Hours after learning that he will be grilled in court on July 15 for the role he played in the sale of the Ciccone Calcográfica mint company, which prints the country’s peso notes, Vice-President Amado Boudou took pains to emphasize he was calm and not worried about what could happen when he faces Judge Ariel Lijo.
“I’m very calm because this is something we had been demanding: a space to prove my innocence,” Boudou wrote on Twitter.
The Pink House received bad news yesterday morning, shortly after sunrise, when Lijo announced that there is enough evidence to merit formally questioning Boudou about his role in the case, in which secret partners and shell companies allegedly benefited from tax exemptions and lucrative government contracts after buying the bankrupt Ciccone Calcográfica printing company at a cut-rate price.
It marks the first time a vice-president will be questioned in criminal court since the nation emerged from military dictatorship in 1983.
Boudou was quick to dismiss calls by political opponents for his resignation, insisting he is not guilty.
“I swear, I sustain and I will demonstrate that I did not commit acts of corruption,” he said.
“I’m very calm,” Boudou added in one of several interviews he gave to local radio programmes after the judge’s resolution was announced.
“This is an important step because I’m going to prove my innocence,” he argued as he had done in February when Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello requested Judge Lijo to call him for questioning and Boudou appeared in Comodoro Py street to make himself available to the judge. He also handed a brief dismissing allegations of influence peddling against him for allegedly using his power as Economy minister and then vice- president to smooth the printing company’s exit from bankruptcy.
Lijo’s move came a day after it was reported by opposition lawmakers Laura Alonso and Patricia Bullrich that the Federal Appeals Court was going to remove him from the case.
Kirchnerites followed Boudou’s strategy, saying the questioning will be a good opporutnity for Fernández de Kirchner’s number two to defend himself from the accusations.
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich dismissed the probe as politically motivated, noting that the judge scheduled the hearing for July 15, a date in which the president is expected to take part in a summit of BRICS countries in Fortaleza, Brazil.
In fact, there was also speculation because the judge chose to summon Boudou two days after the final match of the World Cup.
When a judge summons a person for interrogation, the charges are read when the person faces the judge and prosecutors. But in a move that reflects the high-profile nature of the case, Lijo yesterday decided to explain what allegations Boudou is facing, months after the vice-president used his Twitter account to wonder out loud what the charges involved.
Di Lello claims Boudou and his friend José María Núñez Carmona bought Ciccone Calcográfica which was in bankruptcy while he was Fernández de Kirchner’s Economy Minister. Di Lello thinks that Alejandro Vandenbroele — who owned The Old Fund, the company that purchased former Ciccone Calcográfica — was Boudou’s front man, as Vandenbroele’s former wife, Laura Muñoz, has been claiming.
The Old Fund was founded in 2009 a year later, in September 2010, it purchased 70 percent of Ciccone Calcográfica shares.
Di Lello, who celebrated Lijo’s decision yesterday, believes Boudou and Núñez Carmona wanted the company in order to sign a deal with the state to print peso bills.
According to Ciccone Calcográfica mint company’s heirs, Boudou and his partner had several meetings with them in order to arrange lifting the bankruptcy, which had to be accepted by the AFIP tax bureau agency in order to get the company to start printing again. The prosecutor also said Boudou’s intervention appeared to influence the tax agency’s decision to grant the company an illegal exemption, effectively erasing its debts by enabling it to pay back taxes at below-market interest rates.
The prosecutor believes that the manoeuvre started in 2010 but was settled by 2012 when Boudou was Fernández de Kirchner’s vice-president.
Di Lello also said that Boudou also played a leading role in steering a lucrative contract for Ciccone Calcográfica to print bills.
“In February I believed there were enough elements to request Boudou give some explanations,” Di Lello said yesterday. “The questioning will allow him to defend himself.”
Members of the Ciccone family said Boudou was personally involved in negotiations that persuaded them to sell to The Old Fund. Boudou denied participating in the meetings or knowing other key participants, but witness testimony and documents presented to the judge allegedly report his involvement.
After his July 15 questioning, Judge Lijo will have ten days to decide if he indicts Boudou. But that deadline can possibly be delayed if there is too much evidence to be analyzed.
Herald staff with AP