An Argentine judge has charged Vice President Amado Boudou with bribery and business dealings incompatible with public office in a corruption case related to a currency-printing company, judicial sources said.
Federal Judge Ariel Lijo's decision came while Boudou was in Havana on a multi-country visit that began Thursday and will conclude next week in Panama.
The judge also handed down charges Friday against Jose Maria Nuñez Carmona, a business partner of Boudou's who purportedly served as a middleman in the vice president's alleged secret acquisition of the Ciccone Calcografica printing company, and three other suspects.
Boudou, who served as economy minister between 2009 and 2011, is the first sitting vice president in Argentine history to be charged in a corruption case.
The judge said Boudou and his associate - using a shell company known as The Old Fund - allegedly bought the bankrupt printing firm with the eventual goal of securing currency- and official document-printing contracts.
The allegations date from Boudou's tenure as economy minister.
The decision states that Boudou and Nuñez Carmona allegedly reached an arrangement with Ciccone Calcografica's owners for them to sell 70 percent of the company to The Old Fund in exchange for "the necessary proceedings" to allow the firm to resume operations and secure government contracts.
Lijo also ordered that 200,000 pesos (some $25,000) be seized from Boudou, the Argentine judicial branch's news agency said.
In July 2010, a commercial court declared Ciccone Calcografica bankrupt at the behest of the AFIP tax service, which was trying to recover unpaid taxes from the company.
With a new majority owner - The Old Fund, whose chief executive was Alejandro Vandenbroele -, Ciccone emerged from bankruptcy three months later after agreeing with the AFIP on a payment plan.
Prosecutors say Vandenbroele is a front man for Boudou, a claim the vice president denies.
Boudou became vice president following the 2011 elections, in which President Cristina Fernandez won a second term with 54 percent of the vote.
But as Boudou became mired in corruption scandals, Fernandez has relegated him to the background.
The vice president, who was summoned for questioning in the Ciccone case in late May, said then that the allegations against him originate with business interests unhappy with the policies he implemented while serving as economy minister.
Boudou said the summons to appear in July before Lijo 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 Fernandez, as they were of her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.
Clarin, the flagship of a sprawling media empire that prospered under Argentina's 1976-1983 military regime, has also chafed at new restrictions on media concentration. EFE