Seven hours in the dock
Political activists express support for vice-president before he is questioned in Ciccone case
Vice-President Amado Boudou yesterday faced a seven-hour grilling from Federal Judge Ariel Lijo, as he was asked to explain the role he played in the sale of the Ciccone Calcográfica mint company, which prints the country’s pesos.
His appearance will be remembered as the first time an acting vice-president was summoned to a court of justice for a corruption case.
The vice-president spent a total of more than eight hours inside the courthouse.
According to a source with direct knowledge of the questioning, the judge reportedly spent most of his time asking Boudou if he knew Nicolás Ciccone and the businessman’s relatives. Ciccone has claimed that the vice-president held at least two meetings with them in 2010, in which they requested Boudou’s help to take the company out of bankruptcy.
At the time, Boudou was the economy minister in President Cristina Fernández de Kircher’s Cabinet.
One of the participants in the hearing said that Boudou had politely answered all questions from the judge and the prosecutor although another source said that Boudou, once again, had criticized the investigation led by Lijo.
When Boudou left the courtroom, he was immediately surrounded by a throng of journalists. But despite claiming he wanted to answer their questions, he only stated: “What was tackled today was the technical-judicial analysis of the case. I will expand my statement, I’ve saved the political issues for my next testimony.”
Boudou vowed to release his testimony on Facebook, but at press time he had only published small photos that were illegible, which were later erased. Lijo had refused the vice-president’s earlier request to broadcast the questioning.
Boudou said that he had asked Judge Lijo if he could be summoned on another day to give more details of the case but that request has to be answered by the magistrate, who this week will be questioning five other suspects.
After a long battle with the judge over whether the hearing would be televised, Boudou said: “I wanted to make this transparent. We wanted it to be seen publicly but the judge did not agree. We’ll upload the whole text (the written version of his testimony) to my Facebook account.”
Lijo also reportedly asked Boudou if he knew lawyer Alejandro Vandenbroele, who represents The Old Fund — the company that in 2010 purchased 70 percent of the Ciccone Calcográfica mint company.
Boudou has repeatedly denied having any relationship with Vandenbroele, even though several documents linking the vice-president and the lawyer were found in a raid at Boudou’s flat in the upscale City neighbourhood of Puerto Madero.
Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello asked Boudou why a telephone line in the vice-president’s apartment was registered under Vandenbroele’s name, trying to imply that there was a close connection between the two men. Vandenbroele will appear before Judge Lijo for questioning tomorrow.
Everyone will be waiting for him to confirm or refute Boudou’s version of events.
Boudou arrived at the courthouse at 11.15am, 15 minutes after he was schedueld to be there. He chatted with journalists waiting for him outside the courthouse and passed through a group of activists on Comodoro Py Avenue, who were there to express their support for the vice-president. When he stepped inside the courthouse, a woman shouted: “You’re a thief.”
Timidly, a group of voices spoke up and shouted: “Come on, Amado.” The vice-president took the lift directly to the third floor, where Judge Lijo and Prosecutor Di Lello were waiting for him.
“There was a tense atmosphere during the questioning,” a court source told the Herald. However, others who took part in the hearing at Lijo’s office dismissed that notion. As a proof of that, one source joked: “They even ate empanadas together.”
Lijo and Boudou had their first clash last week, when Boudou accused Lijo of being a “shady judge.” The insult was prompted by the judge’s refusal to allow the hearing to be broadcast live on television, following a formal request by the politician’s lawyers, Diego Pirota and Eduardo Durañona. Di Lello supported the vice-president’s petition, and Boudou has filed an appeal for reconsideration.
Despite the refusal, Boudou would not be foiled. He did not arrive alone yesterday, bringing along a cameraman and a photographer to record the private hearing, although he was not allowed to do so in the end.
For over an hour in court, Judge Lijo read the charges that Boudou faces. According to sources linked to Boudou, the magistrate mostly focused on the allegations by Nicolás Ciccone, the founder of the mint company, and his son-in-law Guillermo Reinwick. Both of them accuse Boudou and his friend José María Núñez Carmona of seizing the company, founded in 1951, via The Old Fund.
For the prosecutor, Di Lello, Boudou can be held responsible for taking part in business negotiations which are incompatible with public office. Lijo on the other hand allegedly sees the whole matter as corruption case, a formula that might have grave consequences for all the parties involved in the case.
Boudou delivered a monologue of over five hours, later answering questions. During this time, one of his lawyers repeatedly went downstairs to the second floor of the courthouse, to check on the First Court of the Appeals Court, which was discussing an appeal filed by Boudou to declare null and void the testimonies delivered by Ciccone and Reinwick. The two men first testified as witnesses and then later became suspects in the case.
Ciccone and his son-in-law are scheduled to appear before Judge Lijo this week.
Eyes were also trained on the scene outside the court, with the presence of large numbers of Kircherite activists a clear sign of the backing the vice-president continues to hold among activists. Prior to his arrival, hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse in the City’s neighbourhood of Retiro.
The first ones to arrive were activists from Beratazegui, waving orange banners and they too were probably the last ones to leave. A group of activists from Peronismo Militante (Militant Peronism) quickly joined them.
Members of the Kirchnerite youth organization La Cámpora also spent about two hours outside the courthouse, chanting in support of the president’s number two.
One group of activists also waved a banner that mentioned Buenos Aires province Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto.
Though Boudou spent more than seven hours appearing before Judge Lijo, most of the activists left at around noon.
As they walked away, some left their signs on the iron gates on Comodoro Py.
“Be strong, Amado,” they read.