El ex vicepresidente Amado Boudou enfrenta su primer juicio oral en los tribunales de Comodoro Py. Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, May 8, 2017. Foto por Agustin Marcarian

Former Vice President Amado Bourou faced today the first hearing in the case with the gravest accusations against him: the so-called “Ciccone case,” in which he has been accused of appropriating the company that gives the case its name, the only private one with the ability to print currency and other government-issued documents in the country, in order to para award it state contracts. He’s been accused of “abuse of authority, violation of the duties of a public official, incompatible negotiations for a public official and embezzling of public funds.”

Boudou, along with the other people indicted in the case, will now face a tribunal that will review the evidence gathered by the judge and prosecutor in charge of the investigation – called instrucción in Spanish judicial language – and determine his fate. All crimes would bring about sentences of up to ten 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.

However, it could still be a while before he effectively begins to spend time behind bars, should it come to that. This process can last up to a year, and the former Vice President has the possibility to appeal the decision. Boudou’s lawyers played their last legal card yesterday: they tried to get this case unified another one that is still investigating an alleged crime committed by the same investment fund he would have used to appropriate Ciccone, called The Old Fund. The tribunal dismissed the request and decided the trial will begin today.

Other – still alleged – accomplices of Boudou in the operation are already foreseeing the negative outcome and trying to jump ship. Alejandro Vandenbroele, accused of being Boudou’s front-man, tried to negotiate a plea deal, offering to testify against him in exchange for a million US dollars and protection, but his efforts proved unfruitful. Moreover, his lawyer quit an hour before the trial was set to begin, and he had to be assigned a public defender.

Vandenbroele. Photo via La Nación
Vandenbroele. Photo via La Nación

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.