Ex-Argentina VP Boudou arrested in corruption case

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Amado Boudou, who had been former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s economy minister and vice president, was arrested on corruption charges on Friday, becoming the second major official in her government to face detention.

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Police arrested Boudou and an alleged associate, Jose Maria Nunez Carmona, in an upscale neighborhood of Buenos Aires for racketeering and money laundering.

Local television showed Boudou, grim-faced and wearing a plain black T-shirt, as he stood beside two bearded security officers. In other photographs broadcast on television, he was in handcuffs, standing in what appeared to be his home.

Boudou’s lawyer denounced the arrest on Friday, calling it “arbitrary.”

“We never had any problems, and overnight, just in the week that there is a complaint to the Magistrates Council, the arrest was ordered,” attorney Eduardo Duranona said on local television.

The 55-year-old economist faces three counts of “illicit enrichment” dating back to 2009, the year he was promoted from heading Argentina’s social security administration to become Fernandez’s economy minister.

He became vice president in 2011, when Fernandez won reelection. But he was largely absent from public view during that four-year term as accusations of corruption mounted against him.

He and Carmona “developed their criminal schemes at least since the start of August 2009, when Amado Boudou took charge of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, until the month of December 2015, when he finished his term as vice president,” according to the arrest warrant.

Fernandez’s former planning minister, Julio De Vido, was arrested on Oct. 25, just three days after current President Mauricio Macri’s “Cambiemos,” or “Let’s Change,” coalition swept Argentina’s Oct. 22 midterm elections.

Fernandez herself is facing corruption allegations stemming from her eight years as president. She will, however, be immune from arrest after being elected to the Senate under Argentina’s list system despite coming in second to Macri’s candidate.

Fernandez was indicted last year on charges that she and her public works secretary, Jose Lopez, embezzled money meant for road projects. Lopez was arrested in June 2016 while trying to stash bags of cash in a Catholic convent.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Fernandez’s “Citizens’ Unity” party accused Macri of using the judicial system to persecute political opponents, putting Argentine democracy “at risk.”

“The deprivation of the former vice president’s freedom has nothing to do with the case being investigated. It is a clear maneuver to intimidate, extort, and discipline union leaders and the political opposition,” the party wrote.

Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Caroline Stauffer and Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andrea Ricci