Former Vice President Amado Boudou will enter the final stage of the most high-profile case against him today: the Ciccone case. During the coming days, the different accusing parties – the prosecutor and the plaintiffs – will deliver their respective pleas and request the tribunal give the accused sentences they deem adequate for their – still alleged – crimes. Then, the tribunal will deliver its ruling.
Boudou stands accused of appropriating the printing company that gives the case its name, the only private enterprise with the ability to print currency and other government-issued documents in the country, in order to award it state contracts. Boudou has been charged with “incompatible negotiations for a public official and embezzlement of public funds.”
Other accused in the case are Boudou’s business partner, José María Núñez Carmona; Alejandro Vandenbroele, accused of being Boudou’s front-man (who tried and failed to negotiate a plea deal); owner of the printing company, Nicolás Ciccone; Guido Forcieri, a close aide of Boudou; and Rafael Resnick Brenner, who worked at the AFIP tax agency when the crimes were allegedly committed.
Lawyers part from the Anti-Corruption office led by Laura Alonso will deliver their pleas today. Tomorrow will be the turn of the Unidad de Información Financiera (UIF) – a state body tasked with preventing asset laundering and financing of terrorism – while the prosecutor before the tribunal, Marcelo Colombo, will do so on June 5th.
The defendants’ lawyers will present their arguments from the 12th to the 19th of June. After listening to all parties, the tribunal will have time to issue a sentence until the winter recess, which will start on the third week of July.
Boudou already had to spend time behind bars last year, after Federal Judge Ariel Lijo ordered last November he be taken into pre-trial arrest in the context of another investigation in which he has been accused of racketeering. Back then, Lijo argued there was “enough evidence to believe he profited in an unjustified manner,” during his time as a public official and he could use that alleged ill-gotten money to interfere with the investigation by, among other things, reaching out to witnesses.
However, he was released in January after an appeals court determined that his detention was not warranted. Upon his release, Boudou accused the judiciary of “abusing its power.”
The two crimes Boudou has been accused of each carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison. This means that if the tribunal finds him guilty of any of them and sentences him to more than three years – if defendants are sentenced to less, they can request probation – he would have to serve time behind bars.
It is fair to clarify that the prosecution alleges that, in this case, the crimes were committed in a manner such that the sentences would not be added up: so, if he gets for example two years and two years, he would not have to go to prison. The plaintiffs, on their end, disagree and argue they should be compounded. So, in that case, if the tribunal issued the same sentence, he would have to go to prison.
But even if he is sentenced to more than three years, regardless of the manner – he will be able to appeal the decision to both a court of appeals and the Cassation Court. Therefore, in order for him to actually go to prison, these two courts would have to confirm this potential charges. And since the Argentine judiciary moves extremely slowly, several years will surely go by before this scenario would take place.
The Ciccone Case
Back in 2010, when Boudou was Economy Minister during 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.
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 himself: “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.