Photo via La Voz del Interior

Former Vice President Amado Boudou will go to trial on October 3 for allegedly making use of his influence as a high ranking member of the Executive office to buy the Ciccone printing company in order to award it State contracts. Boudou is accused of “abuse of authority, violation of the duties of a public official, incompatible negotiations for a public official and embezzling of public funds,” by allegedly buying the company, the only one with the ability to print currency and other government-issued documents in the country.

All crimes would bring about sentences of up to six years. Should he be found guilty, Boudou could spend time behind bars, taking into account that in the Argentine criminal system, convicted felons only get probation if they are sentenced to three years or less in prison.

Both the prosecutor and the judge in charge of the investigative part of the case considered Boudou to be guilty of the charges he was accused of. It will now be up to a tripartite tribunal to make the final decision — which, same as in all other instances of the case, can be appealed.

Boudou has been indicted in several other cases, both for the amount of money he could have made as a result of this alleged maneuver and the abuse of his position as a high ranking public official.

The timing comes as a gift for the government, as the trial will begin 19 days before the midterm elections. Considering that the main — if not only — strategy from the Cambiemos alliance is reminding people that their victory would be the last symbolic nail to the coffin of Kirchnerism as a party that can potentially return to the Executive branch, having various headlines reminding the electorate that its main leaders and former officials are embroiled in numerous corruption scandals supports their cause.

At the time of choosing candidates for her newly-formed party, former PresidentCristina Fernández de Kirchner picked people who didn’t have a high profile during her administrations to avoid her opponents using that tactic to attack them. An example that illustrates this is the fact that the party’s first candidate for Deputy in the Buenos Aires province, Fernanda Vallejos, was practically forbidden from speaking publicly after she defended the former Vice-President in the first interview she granted as a candidate.

However, this didn’t cause much of a dent in Cambiemos’ strategy, as its representatives focused their efforts in attacking the former President anyway.

Faithful to the style of Argentine politics, all relevant matters will be covered from a perspective that analyzes the effects they could have in the upcoming elections.

The Ciccone Case

Back in 2010, when Boudou was the Economy Minister for the first Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration, he instructed the national tax collecting agency (AFIP) to call a special moratorium on the company to help it finance its debt. At the time, the company was experiencing financial difficulty.

But it doesn’t look like he did it out of the kindness of his heart: Boudou allegedly planned to get 70 percent of the company’s stock from the owner, Nicolás Ciccone, “in exchange for lifting it out of bankruptcy, approving the moratorium and injecting it with funds so as to recover its productivity.”

According to the prosecutor, Boudou ended up buying Ciccone through a shell company named “The Old Fund,” with money “that is presumed to have had illegal origins” (this could imply that the money was embezzled or obtained in other illicit ways).

Once he had acquired the company, he would have allegedly used his influence as a public official to award it State contracts. A year after the company was lifted out of bankruptcy, Ciccone, renamed “Compañía de Valores Sudamericana,” got a contract to print 500 million AR $100 bills: a deal worth almost US $55 million.

The Ciccone Printing Company. Photo via Tu Noticia
The Ciccone Printing Company. Photo via Tu Noticia

Boudou initially denied having anything to do with either the case or the company and accused the media of mounting a smear campaign against him. In 2012, when he was Vice-President, he called journalists to Congress to publicly defend him: “There was no wrongdoing during my tenure as Economy Minister. I didn’t do anything to favor Ciccone. All I did was answer a memo AFIP sent me.”

However, the case moved forward: In 2014 Boudou was called into questioning by Federal Judge Ariel Lijo and he was prosecuted later that year. Predictably, he appealed the decision, but both the Federal and Cassation Courts arrived to the same conclusion at every step of the investigation and found him guilty.