‘If Boudou is guilty, Ciccone too’
Amado Boudou will be the first democratic vice-president to be questioned in court over a corruption case. His summons halted both the political and the judicial worlds. The Herald talked to Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello, who is in charge of the Ciccone Calcográfica mint company case and in February requested Judge Ariel Lijo to summon Boudou for questioning.
Di Lello makes an effort to play down tomorrow’s questioning. “I have been working as a prosecutor for more than 22 years in the courthouse located on Comodoro Py Avenue,” the prosecutor said when this newspaper asked him about the importance of the hearing.
In conversation with the Herald, Prosecutor Di Lello admitted: “This is going to be a particularly difficult week.” Boudou and five other suspects will be questioned this week over the Ciccone case.
How do you react to the fact that you will face tomorrow the vice-president in court?
This case has become increasingly important because it has three ingredients: a society that is undergoing a holy war between the government and the opposition, a clumsy and quite unscrupulous vice-president and something which arouses media attention. I understood this recently and I think the best thing you can do with these cases is solve them quickly, that is why I requested the judge to question the vice-president four months ago.
Your request was filed in February and some believe, including Boudou, that Judge Lijo decided to call him for questioning because it was reported that the Appeals Court was about to remove the magistrate. Do you think so?
I don’t think it is OK to comment on gossip. Maybe it was a way to pressure the judge or the Appeals Court. Maybe that hypothesis was politically used.
But the Appeals Court has to decide on a very delicate issue, whether Nicolás Ciccone and his son-in-law Guillermo Reinwick’s testimonies are valid.
Yes, I have been saying that if we say that the Ciccones are innocent, Boudou is innocent. If Boudou is guilty, the Ciccones cannot be taken as victims. The judge first considered them as witnesses, then plaintiffs, then witnesses again and he never explained why he changed his mind.
And why do they have to be considered as suspects?
If you pay attention to the testimony they delivered as witnesses, they said: “I needed funds to save Ciccone mint company. That is why, knowing that a friend of the vice-president lived next-door to my son-in-law, I asked him to contact that man.” If the president did something forbidden, they also asked for something that was not legal. There cannot be a different status despite different responsibilities. If Boudou is guilty and the Ciccones innocent, the country will have to buy Ciccone company for a second time and that will be very expensive.
Boudou requested his appearance in court to be aired live on TV and that generated a controversy, though Judge Lijo refused. What’s your opinion?
Reality is always better than what books say. The Criminal Procedure Code says that investigation are secret to third parties and that the defence lawyers and the prosecutor can be present at the questioning. Airing a questioning live on TV is not forbidden. If I were the judge, I would broadcast the hearing to make it more transparent.
But can’t it affect the ongoing investigation?
If the person who is being questioned agrees and the investigation is not affected, there is no problem. You may say the investigation must be secret but how long have you been reading about the case in the paper? This is a secret between 40 million people. But there is something else. While opposition leaders resist broadcasting the hearing, Kirchnerites insist on that. If Boudou told the truth, the judge could discontinue the case and nobody would complain because everyone saw the hearing. But if he lied, could he speak for over seven hours without contradicting himself? I don’t think the judge made a bad decision but sometimes you have to run a risk.
Do you think Judge Lijo made a mistake when issuing the questioning request on May 30?
I cannot give an opinion. When I requested Boudou’s summons in February, I charged him with business affairs which are incompatible with public office. Lijo accused him of seizing the company. Both crimes have the same penalties but it is more difficult to prove the latter because you need evidence that Boudou paid for it.
That is what Boudou says. He says that the judge is not investigating the money trail...
As a prosecutor, I need evidence to charge somebody with a crime.
Boudou’s lawyers requested that Lijo declare null and void his summons. How long can the judge take to make that decision?
He hasn’t requested my opinion yet. When that request arrives, I have three working days to issue an opinion and then it’s the judge’s turn.
Lijo will probably not agree to nullify the summons and the case will go to the Appeals Court. Can that tribunal quash the whole questioning?
If that happened, the case would go back to May 29 — before Lijo’s questioning request. But they did not request the nullification of the questioning. They only made reference to the summons.