A JUDGE has charged Argentina’s vice-president over a corruption scandal linked to the printing of its currency, the peso.
Amado Boudou, 51, is suspected of using his influence when economy minister to ensure the print contract was handed to a firm he controlled.
He is accused of using shell companies and middlemen to control the firm, which also got the contract to print election material for Boudou as running mate of president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Federal judge Ariel Lijo’s decision was published late on Friday. Lijo also ordered the seizure of 200,000 pesos (£14,400) from Boudou, who will remain free while he waits trial along with five other defendants.
Boudou is the first sitting Argentine vice-president to face such charges.
If convicted he faces up to six years in jail and a life ban from elected office.
Boudou, who is currently on an official trip to Central America, says he is innocent despite evidence of his links to other defendants published by Argentine newspapers.
Many Argentines have questioned why Kirchner, 61, has remained loyal to him. Boudou trails in Argentina’s polls for popularity. Opponents are threatening to impeach him and allies have urged him to resign. Eyebrows were raised when Boudou, described as a “floppy-haired, guitar-strumming, Harley Davidson-riding … lightweight” politician by one business newspaper, was picked as vice-president.
Kirchner, known as CFK in Argentina, has yet to speak publicly about the case.
Boudou is accused of smoothing the Ciccone Calcografica printing company’s exit from bankruptcy and engineering its purchase by a shell company so he and other secret partners could benefit from tax exemptions and lucrative government contracts.
The shell company, The Old Fund, was led by businessman Alejandro Vandenbroele, who is accused of secretly representing Boudou in business deals.
The scandal broke open after Vandenbroele’s former wife exposed the alleged arrangement. She said she went to the newspapers after her life was threatened over what she knew.
Others ordered to testify included Boudou’s friend and business partner Jose Maria Nunez Carmona; Vandenbroele; former tax agency official Rafael Resnick Brenner; printing company co-founder Nicolas Ciccone; and his son-in-law Guillermo Reinwick.
The Ciccones have said Boudou was personally involved in negotiations that led them to sell 70 per cent of the family company to The Old Fund. Boudou has denied participating in the meetings. He has said he was not involved with The Old Fund, even though documents published by La Nacion show the company paid his girlfriend’s travel company for vacations taken by his friends and relatives.
Boudou also said he did not know Vandenbroele, but the businessman’s name was on bills at one of Boudou’s apartments, according to copies published by La Nacion.
Boudou accepts he signed a decree as economy minister that effectively erased the printer’s debts by enabling the new owners to pay back taxes over many years at below-market interest rates.