Argentina's Vice President Amado Boudou has been summoned for questioning as a potential defendant in a corruption case, a Buenos Aires court said on Friday. The allegations date from Boudou's 2009-2011 tenure as Economy minister.
The subpoena, which requires Boudou to appear July 15 before federal Judge Ariel Lijo, marks the first time in Argentine history that a sitting vice president is cited as a potential defendant in a criminal matter.
Opposition lawmakers have called for his resignation or leave of absence while the court proceedings continue. Prosecutors contend Boudou used his position as economy minister to favor a firm that prints currency for the Argentine treasury.
The then-head of the AFIP tax service, Ricardo Echegaray, is also alleged to have played a role.
In July 2010, a commercial court declared Ciccone Calcografica bankrupt at the behest of the AFIP, which was trying to recover unpaid taxes from the company. With a new majority owner, The Old Fund, Ciccone emerged from bankruptcy three months later after agreeing with the AFIP on a payment plan.
Prosecutors say Old Fund chief executive Alejandro Vandenbroele is a front man for Boudou, a claim the vice president denies.
Pointing to Boudou's repeated assurances that he would cooperate with the judicial probe, Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich said Friday that the vice president is at the court's service, as always.
Boudou became vice president following the 2011 elections, in which President Cristina Fernandez won a second term with 54% of the vote. She personally chose him for the ticket following on certain Boudou initiatives that gave the cash-strapped administration oxygen such as seizing the private pension funds.
However as Boudou became mired in corruption scandals, Cristina Fernandez has relegated him to the background. Even so, her administration has consistently expressed support for the beleaguered vice president, who said Friday that he has no plans to resign or take a leave of absence.
Boudou told Radio 10 the subpoena didn't trouble him because he has been waiting for the opportunity to demonstrate his innocence. He said the allegations against him originate with business interests unhappy with the policies he implemented while serving as economy minister.
The summons, Boudou said, gives him the possibility to clear up this scandal that really has become a permanent press operation from the daily Clarin and the daily La Nacion.
Clarin and La Nacion are Argentina's leading national newspapers. Both publications have been critical of President Cristina Fernandez, as they were of her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.
Boudou insisted that the news about the inquiry comes suspiciously the day after the federal government settled a billionaire dispute with the Paris Club group of creditors, a move that has been largely welcomed by both ruling party and opposition sectors.
“This call has to do with the agenda of Clarin,” Boudou affirmed. “I am very calm and I want to prove my innocence,” he insisted.
“Do you feel supported by the government?” journalist Eduardo Feinmann asked him. “I am part of the government and I carry out my duty as vice president; it does not have to do with whether I feel supported or not. I am part of this government,” Boudou responded and stated all “three hypothesis” against him “have already been dismissed” in the case.
“There are three hypothesis; the money laundering one, which has been dismissed; the one that says I had influenced (in the payment plan offered by) the AFIP tax bureau (to the Ciccone company), was also dismissed. And the one that I kept the Ciccone company; also dismissed. That is why the judge was forced to change his very own hypothesis,” argued Boudou.
“I swear I committed no corruption crime and that I will prove in the inquiry.”