September 16, 2014
Boudou, Judge Lijo finally face off in court
VP vows to remain in office, implying a different fate from others embroiled in scandal
History will be made today at 11am, when Vice-President Amado Boudou will appear before Judge Ariel Lijo at the Comodoro Py courthouse and become the first vice-president to be questioned by a judge since the return of democracy in 1983.
Lijo will ask Boudou about his role in the Ciccone case, in which shell companies and secret partners allegedly benefited from tax exemptions after buying the bankrupt Ciccone printing company at a cut-rate price.
The questioning is not just significant for Boudou, it is also a legal blow to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration amid calls for the vice-president to take a leave of absence.
Boudou insists he will not step down, even if he is indicted. But doing so would mark a significant shift for the Kirchnerite administration that has long shown a willingness to abandon officials once they found themselves embroiled in legal trouble.
The questioning should be pretty straightforward. Judge Lijo will read the accusations against him and Boudou will have time to defend himself. If the Kirchnerite official agrees, he will take questions from both the magistrates and prosecutor Jorge Di Lello.
According to Lijo, Boudou’s intervention in the Ciccone case included meetings with the Ciccone family — which have been repeatedly denied by the vice-president — and pressure over the AFIP tax bureau led by Ricardo Echegaray, which ended up granting the company a way out of bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, calls from the opposition for Boudou to step down continue increasing amid media reports over the weekend that claimed staunch Kirchnerite allies such as José Ottavis — a key member of La Cámpora youth organization and head of the Peronist Youth (JP) — insisted that Boudou should step down from his position. But a former adviser to Ottavis was sceptical of the rumours and told the Herald that the JP leader was one of the few Victory Front representatives who still backed the vice-president.
Boudou said last week that even if he is indicted, he would not be stepping down, comparing himself to Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri, who was indicted in 2010 as part of a wiretapping case.
If that were to happen though, Boudou would mark an exception in the Kirchnerite era, when those who have been accused of corruption or mismanagement of public funds were quickly shown the door.
Some of the most notable cases include:
— On July 16, 2007, near the end of the administration of late president Néstor Kirchner, then-Economy minister Felisa Miceli presented her resignation to Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernández.
Miceli stepped down shortly after Prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán called her to testify after a bag full of money was found inside her office in the Economy Ministry building. In late 2012, she was sentenced to four years in prison after she was found guilty of hiding and destroying evidence. (The official was also banned from taking any public office for at least eight years.)
— On September 19, 2008, Army Chief Roberto Bendini resigned from his post following corruption allegations. Bendini — who had been in office for five years and four months — was being investigated for alleged irregularities related to a bank account that received deposits of about 500,000 pesos between May 2002 and April 2003. Fernández de Kirchner replaced him with Luis Alberto Pozzi.
— On December 2, 2008, then-Cabinet Chief Sergio Massa removed Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti from her post following several irregularities in her department, including low execution of budget and sumptuous travel expenses. According to media reports, the courts had been investigating Picolotti (who was backed by Massa’s predecessor Alberto Fernández) for mismanagement of public funds for more than a year.
‘It would make things easier’
Yesterday, PRO party lawmaker Federico Pinedo said that if Boudou were to take a leave of absence it “would make things easier for Argentina, the president and her government.”
Boudou “has taken the time to insult the judge with the goal, I believe, of forcing him into making a mistake,” Pinedo said. “But he should say why all these accusations are false.”
Radical Party (UCR) congressman Mario Fiad said the president’s number two “should take a leave of absence now” but should “outright resign” if he’s charged with graft.
Fiad echoed “comments” that the Kirchnerite official “had already presented his resignation to the president,” but did not reveal the source of those rumours.
Meanwhile, Kirchnerite leaders offered up a relatively lukewarm defence of Boudou yesterday.
Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli stressed the fact that the vice-president “had already said he wanted to appear before the courts,” while Defence Minister Agustín Rossi said recent events were part a “media lynching” case.
“Kirchnerites are stigmatized while opposition leaders always get a free pass,” Rossi complained.
Boudou will be the first of five suspects to be formally questioned at Comodoro Py in the City neighbourhood of Retiro. Boudou’s friend and business partner José María Núñez Carmona will also face Lijo tomorrow at 11am. The president of The Old Fund firm Alejandro Vandenbroele must appear before Lijo on Wednesday at 11am, former AFIP adviser Rafael Resnick Brenner’s turn will be on Thursday at 9am, Guillermo Reinwick (Nicolás Ciccone’s son in law) will go on Thursday at 11am while Nicolás Ciccone will close out the week by appearing in court on Friday.