Last week the Federal Chamber confirmed Vice-President Amado Boudou’s indictment for corruption charges stemming from his role in the appropriation of the “Ciccone Calcográfica” printing company.
The three judges in charge of deciding whether Boudou would become the first indicted/convicted VP while in office confirmed judge Axel Lijo’s ruling, leaving him on the verge of trial.
But to fully understand the the case’s magnitude, the VP’s role and how he got into this mess in the first place we have to go back to the beginning.
Here’s an easy guide to understand what’s going on.
Ciccone calcográfica was for a long time the only Argentine company with the technology to print currency and other government-issued documents. When it lost its government contract in 2009, Ciccone, already in financial trouble, also lost one of its main sources of income. A year later, the AFIP (the tax collecting agency equivalent to the US’ IRS) requested that Ciccone be declared bankrupt.
A short time later, a state contractor called “London Supply” paid the AR$1,8 million required to lift the company from bankruptcy. The transaction was made in the name of a company called “The Old Fund”, whose director was a man named Alejandro Vandenbroele.
The Old Fund gained control of Ciccone.
Boudou Enters the Scene
The VP’s first appearance in the Ciccone case happened right after this. On October 2010, Ciccone presented a request to AFIP for a moratorium, which included a reduction of interest, fines and professional fees.
AFIP accepted the request, but suggested something unusual. Consulting on the decision was Amado Boudou, the Economy Minister at the time. Not only was Ciccone granted its request, but due to Boudou’s influence, Ciccone received a special moratorium plan because it “had strategic importance and was a source of employment”.
A year later Ciccone, renamed “Compañía de valores Sudamericana” (CVS), already had a new government contract. The ruling Frente para la Victoria party hired CVS to print its ballots for the upcoming elections.
The Scheme Goes Public
On February 6th 2012 Laura Muñoz, The Old Fund director Alejandro Vandenbroele’s soon to be ex-wife, accused her husband of being Boudou’s front man. Both Boudou (who had already been elected Vice-President) and Vandenbroele denied having ties or even knowing each other, and the VP accused Clarín of orchestrating a “media maneuver” to hurt the government. It was later discovered that Vandenbroele had paid Boudou’s apartment expenses.
The case against Bodou was eventually assigned to Judge Ariel Lijo, who decided to combine it with another ongoing investigation into The Old Fund for an illegal enrichment operation.
A few months after, despite the ongoing criminal investigation, CVS got a new government contract to print 500 million AR$100 bills, a deal worth almost US$55 million.
The contract raised even more questions, as it was more expensive than the one the government had earlier signed with a Brazilian company. Also, its board remained secret despite creditors’ official request for it to be revealed.
Three days before the deadline to reveal the board’s composition, the government decided to send a bill to Congress to nationalize or “appropriate” the company. The emergency decree used to nationalize the company argued that the state “needed to maintain the currency’s sovereignty and for that it was essential to concentrate the fabrication of circulating money and printing of security documents”.
The decree passed Congress, but not without an eight-hour-long debate in the Lower House and corruption accusations from both sides. Many opposition lawmakers offered bold accusations, most of them regarding the Vice-President’s part in the scandal.
One strong accusation came from Elisa “Lilita” Carrió, who called for the bill to be repealed because it was “a move to cover up felonies, and set a strong precedent for the appropriation of a private business by the government”. She also accused those who voted yes of treason.
Things Get Complicated for Boudou
On December 4th 2013 former Ciccone employee Jorge Reynwick broke down during his testimony and revealed how the scheme worked. And according to him, Boudou had a big part in it.
Reynwick detailed how the Ciccone family, desperate to save their dying company, tried to get in the government’s favor. One day, while running in the Pacheco Golf Club, he stumbled upon Telefé network’s commercial director Gabriel Bianco, who told him he could reach Boudou for help.
After settling the details with Bianco, Reynwick and his father-in-law were approached by the VP’s partner and associate, José María Nuñez Carmona, on July 29th, 2010 at the Telefé network studios. While Boudou was a guest in a morning show, they went to a conference room where Carmona detailed the plan. Reynwick became, The Old Fund’s owner, at least on paper.
The plan was that Boudou and Nuñez Carmona would get 70 percent of the company’s stock from owner Nicolas Ciccone in exchange for lifting its bankruptcy and awarding it government contracts. It would also get a special–later deemed illegal by Lijo– moratorium, facilitated by AFIP employee Rafael Resnick Brenner. The scheme would be executed by phantom company, “The Old Fund”, and ordered on paper by Boudou’s front man Alejandro Vandenbroele.
Judge Lijo Makes a Decision
On June 27th 2014 and after a thorough investigation, Lijo decided to indict Boudou for corruption. Vadenbroele, Nuñez Carmona, Reynwick, Ciccone and Resnick Brenner were also indicted.
On July 10th, Boudou appealed the indictment, which was elevated to the first Criminal Federal Chamber. Its three members would decide whether to confirm Lijo’s decision and clear the path to taking the case to trial or let the VP off the hook.
Although officially defending the accused, Kirchnerites have gradually started to marginalize Boudou. Removed from the public eye, the Vice-President lost his seat next to Cristina in acts and Cadenas Nacionales and was instead placed far behind. His workload shrank to the bare minimum.
The latest ostracism came last week, when the President announced she would send him to Uruguay on March 1st. He didn’t greet Cristina in Congress as the President of the Senate should before she opened this year’s legislative session. Instead, he was sent to Uruguay to attend President-elect Tabare Vazquez’s inauguration. The Uruguayans considered his presence toxic, as his name wasn’t on official guest list, and he was even booed when he approached the stage.
Things aren’t looking good for Boudou right now. Without Cristina and consequently the Kirchnerite party’s support, he has been left to his own fate.
It’s unclear whether he will go to trial while he’s still a sitting Vice-President. Some political analysts and jurists say it’s unlikely. We will have to wait an see.