Thursday, July 19, 2007

Argentina: Minister resigns over bag of cash in bathroom

Argentina's economy minister, Felisa Miceli, has resigned after £30,000 (US$64,000) was found in her office bathroom. Photograph: Maria Eugenia Solis/AFP.

Minister resigns over bag of cash in bathroom

Mark Oliver and agencies
Tuesday July 17, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

see also:
Argentina: brouhaha surrounding economy minister

Argentina's economy minister has resigned after the discovery of more than £30,000 in a brown paper bag in her office bathroom.
Felisa Miceli, 54, stepped down after a prosecutor ordered her to give evidence before a judge about the money, which she has said was mostly a loan from her brother to buy a house.
Prosecutors are sceptical about that version of events, the Associated Press reported.
The president, Néstor Kirchner, who had supported Ms Miceli as the scandal grew in recent weeks, overnight accepted her resignation and appointed the industry secretary, Gustavo Peirano, as her replacement.
The affair has further eroded the popularity of the Kirchner government ahead of national elections on October 28. The resignation comes as Mr Kirchner's wife Senator Cristina Fernandez is expected to launch her run for president on Thursday at a rally in Buenos Aires. She is still considered the frontrunner.
The bag of money was found last monthin a bathroom cabinet by police conducting a routine security check in Ms Miceli's offices.
Ms Miceli has insisted that she has broken no laws. She has said she made a "blunder" by taking the money to her office for safekeeping until she could put it in a bank. She said the money was for a real estate deal that ultimately did not happen.
It is common in Argentina to pay in cash for property. But federal prosecutor Guillermo Marijuan was not satisfied with her explanation and has ordered her to appear in court.
He traced the cash back to a bank he said the money came from, but failed to find any accounts there linked to Ms Miceli or her brother, Reuters reported. Mr Marijaun also found there was no record of a withdrawal for that amount of money at the bank.
Ms Miceli said she would face justice "like any other citizen" to clarify the case. In her resignation letter she said: "The publicising of acts concerning my private life, relating them to my public activity, has caused undeserved damage to my honour which undoubtedly affects our government."
Mr Kirchner's government has been embroiled in other controversies. In May he sacked two mid-level officials after a Swedish construction firm said it had found "improper payments" in a government pipeline project. A judicial investigation into the payments is continuing.
Last week government officials were also forced to defend the environment secretary, Romina Picolotti, after a leading newspaper reported that she had hired about 350 new people, including relatives.
Ministers and officials in Argentina are routinely suspected of padding their salaries with bribes and gifts.
The resignation of Ms Miceli is not expected to have a major impact on Argentina's economic policies as they are directed mainly by Mr Kirchner.

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