Wed, May 16, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Argentine VP’s legal woes multiply


Allegations of influence peddling and money laundering have not sufficed to topple Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou. On Monday, illegal enrichment accusations were added to the mix when a federal prosecutor asked a judge to open yet another probe against him.

Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello asked Judge Ariel Lijo to investigate 10 businesses, including The Old Fund, a holding company reportedly linked to Boudou that took over a bankrupt printing company and secured a government contract to print Argentina’s currency after Boudou and other top officials’ intervention. Also named in the probe is businessman Alejandro Vandenbroele, who allegedly served as Boudou’s proxy in several business deals.

The judge must decide whether to formally open an investigation and bring charges that carry a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a lifetime ban from public office, Di Lello’s secretary Juliana Marquez said.

“The prosecutor has found sufficient elements to justify investigating the vice president,” she said.

Boudou already faces potential charges of influence trafficking in a case Lijo inherited from Judge Daniel Rafecas.

Rafecas opened that investigation, and Argentina’s attorney general, Esteban Righi, approved his request for a raid on Boudou’s apartment that yielded telephone records linking Boudou and Vandenbroele. Both men denied knowing each other, but Vandenbroele’s ex-wife testified that he had been Boudou’s front-man for years.

Boudou spoke in his own defense last month in a passionate televised speech in the Argentine Senate, where he presides as president of the chamber. He accused an opposition media “mafia” led by the newspaper Clarin of inventing a story rivaling The Godfather and accused the president of Argentina’s stock exchange of trying to bring him down in a conspiracy with business rivals.

Opposition lawmakers on Monday repeated their calls for Boudou to resign, warning that his case could be a threat to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

“He needs to free the president from having to carry the risk of falling herself into the crime of an illegal coverup,” Margarita Stolbizer, an opposition deputy in Congress, said in a statement.

It would be easier for the president to apologize for choosing him than to become complicit in the scandal by blocking the justice system, she added.

Boudou had slipped off Argentina’s front pages after Fernandez decided to take back control of the nation’s leading energy company, YPF, from Spanish shareholders.

“But now it’s come back with force,” raising questions about what the president knew, said Sergio Berensztein, director of independent consulting firm Poliarquia.

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