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Argentina's prosecutor general quits in graft row

April 11, 2012 at 5:15 PM   |   Comments

BUENOS AIRES, April 11 (UPI) -- Argentina faces another week of political turmoil after Prosecutor General Esteban Righi resigned in a row with Vice President Amado Boudou over a quickly unfolding corruption scandal.

Boudou has courted controversy since he was picked as running mate by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for last October's presidential election. Fernandez won the election with a 54 percent majority and named Boudou vice president.

Influence peddling is a charge that has haunted Boudou since his appointment Dec. 10 last year. Battle lines between Righi and Boudou were drawn when the prosecutor general began looking into Boudou's conduct.

The vice president responded by retaliating against Righi. He targeted Righi's former law firm as well as another critic, Stock Exchange President Adelmo Gabbi.

In his resignation letter to Fernandez, Righi said he couldn't continue because of the court controversy and personal attacks from Boudou. He was leaving office, he said, because he could no longer have "appropriate level of spiritual serenity to fully serve the public interest."

He told Fernandez, "It is also true that I don't believe it's possible to honorably fulfill a high position in public office if doing so compromises one's honor or family honor."

The main charge against Boudou is that he acted improperly while in the previous Cabinet as Economy minister. He allegedly awarded contracts to Ciccone Printing Co. for security printing, including 100-peso banknotes, while being closely involved with the company.

The news broke after the former wife of Ciccone executive Alejandro Vanderbroele told news media Boudou was a silent partner in the firm. Boudou denied the allegation.

The charge persisted after further news reports that a condominium rented by Boudou was owned by a close friend of Vanderbroele.

Boudou is a Fernandez loyalist and has seen the president returning the gesture with open support despite raging controversies in the press and judiciary's resistance to government suggestions to go easy on the vice president.

Boudou, meanwhile, has hit back at Righi, accusing his former law firm of offering to sell access to high government officials.

Righi became prosecutor general in June 2004. He will be replaced by the head of the Office of Internal Affairs, Daniel Reposo. The appointment needs to be cleared by the Senate.

Meanwhile, Stock Exchange head Adelmo Gabbi still faces court action by Boudou, who has accused him of offering to deflect a negative campaign of vilification against the vice president in return for cash.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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