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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 July 2007, 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK
Argentine loo cash minister quits
Felisa Miceli
Felisa Miceli resigned over the $64,000 question
Argentina's economy minister has resigned after being asked to testify about storing $64,000 (47,000 euros; 32,000) in her office toilet.

Felisa Miceli said the cash was lent to her by her brother to buy a house.

But a prosecutor investigating the case called on Mrs Miceli to be questioned under oath about the money.

The case has caused embarrassment for the government in Argentina, where tax evasion is common and officials are often suspected of corruption.

The scandal comes less than four months before presidential elections are due, and the government moved quickly to repair the damage, immediately naming Mrs Miceli's successor as Miguel Peirano, the industry secretary.

President Nestor Kirchner had initially stood by his minister, who presided over a period of dramatic economic growth in Argentina.

But she could not provide any credible explanation and in the end her position became untenable, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires.

'Political attack'

In late June, local media reported police had found a large amount of cash, in both pesos and dollars, stored in a bathroom cabinet inside Mrs Miceli's office at the economy ministry.

In newspaper interviews, Mrs Miceli said the cash had been lent to her to buy a house in the capital, Buenos Aires.

"I was naive, clumsy. It was a mistake... there could have been negligence but I am sure I haven't committed any crime," she was quoted as saying by Clarin daily.

Felisa Miceli and Nestor Kirchner
Nestor Kirchner initially stood by his minister

"It's a political attack, not against me, but against the government during a political year," she said after the scandal broke.

Presidential elections are due on 28 October in which Cristina Kirchner, the wife of the president, is a leading candidate.

The investigating prosecutor said he had traced the origin of the money and implied in a statement that that minister had been involved in a cover up, and was suspected of destroying documents.

La Nacion quoted Mrs Miceli as saying the affair "makes me look suspicious and that truly hurts. The situation is much more simple and normal".

Mrs Miceli was appointed the country's first female economy minister in November 2005.

Argentine minister in cash probe
07 Jul 07 |  Americas

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