Monday, July 7, 2014

Argentina: Vice President Should Tone Down His Claims of Innocence on Corruption Charges

According to The Latin American Post, Vice President Amado Boudou, 51, has been charged in a corruption case in which he is accused of abusing his power to gain control of a company that has printed the nation’s currency, a development that has shaken the government here.

On Friday (July 4), Boudou was charged with receiving bribes and conducting business incompatible with public office. If convicted, he Boudou could face up to six years in prison.

Boudou, who is currently in Havana on an official trip, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He has said that news media organizations with which the government has long been at odds, especially the Clarín Group, have conspired against him.

In remarks to a radio station, one of Boudou’s lawyers compared the 330-page document detailing the charges, published late Friday by a federal judge, Ariel Lijo, to “a fairy tale told in a fantastical way for the news media to replicate.” 

His attorneys said Boudou would appeal the charges if convicted.

COMMENT:  Boudou has also sought to raise doubts about the impartiality of Judge Lijo. Before a hearing this month, he said Judge Lijo “liked to handle his affairs in the darkness of his office” and accused him of acting like a puppet for Clarín, which publishes the country’s largest newspaper.

The corruption charges against Boudou date back to 2010, when he was economy minister. 

He is accused of taking steps to illegally revive a bankrupt printing company and using a "front-man" to buy shares in the company, now called Compañia de Valores Sudamericana.

The company printed Argentina’s bank notes and made fliers for the re-election campaign of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2011.

Interestingly, amid the corruption claims, the company was nationalized in 2012.

Considering that there are multiple defendants in the case, including Alejandro Vandenbroele, the businessman accused of being Boudou’s "front-man," have also been charged. News reports have described ties between the two men, yet Boudou denies knowing Vandenbroele.

It has been my experience that whenever there are multiple defendants in a politically charged trial, he that makes a deal with the prosecution FIRST, usually "gets the best deal."

Boudou was appointed economy minister in 2009, serving in the post for more than two years. In 2011, Mrs. Kirchner chose him as her running mate.

He was once considered to be her likely successor, but the scandal has tarnished his image. Term limits also bar Mrs. Kirchner from running again next year.

Some members of the opposition are also discussing impeaching Boudou. Others are calling for him to step down temporarily. 

Boudou is the first sitting vice president here to face corruption charges, according to the local news media. He will remain free while he awaits trial.

Concerns about corruption have dogged Argentines during the governments of both Mrs. Kirchner and Néstor Kirchner, her husband and predecessor. 

One economy minister under Néstor Kirchner's tenure was sentenced to four years in prison in 2012 after a large amount of cash was found in her office bathroom. She has appealed her sentence.