GERARDO REYES / NANCY SAN MARTIN
August 14, 2007
An Argentine scandal involving a Key Biscayne Venezuelan has led to a call for dismissal of a Venezuelan government oil official.
Argentine officials have asked for the dismissal of a Venezuelan government official linked to a scandal involving a Key Biscayne Venezuelan caught with $790,550 in cash in Buenos Aires, according to media reports Monday.
Authorities reportedly are seeking the resignation of the president of the Argentine subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.
The Key Biscayne man -- Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, 46 -- also is an associate of a businessman linked to a large Caracas food conglomerate known to have obtained multimillion-dollar contracts with the government of President Hugo Chávez, El Nuevo Herald has learned.
Public records show that Antonini's associate -- both are officers of a Doral company, Techmilk Inc. -- is also an officer of a company that owns an airplane seized by U.S. officials for improper registry -- a circumstance that officials say can sometimes be used to launder money.
Failing to declare $790,550 in cash -- which Antonini was carrying in a private plane -- is why Antonini is being investigated by Argentine authorities.
The Venezuelan-American entrepreneur is the business associate of a Miami pilot whom the Drug Enforcement Administration has cited, in an affidavit, for the alleged illegal use of a U.S. license for an executive plane confiscated in May, El Nuevo Herald has learned.
The pilot, Wladimir Abad, is listed as the secretary of American Food Grain, a Venezuelan firm that owns a Raytheon Hawker 800 executive plane seized by the DEA at Fort Lauderdale Airport on May 17.
USES OF AIRPLANES
Without offering more details, the agent in the case, Terry Frankhauser, wrote on the confiscation report filed with federal court in Miami that U.S. airplanes -- their tail registry numbers all begin with the letter ''N'' -- undergo fewer checks at international airports, allowing ''foreign owners to use the aircraft to smuggle drugs, weapons and/or bulk currency.'' The report provides no indication that the aircraft was used for such purposes.
Jonathan Etra, an attorney for the company, said Abad is just ''an incorporator'' for American Food Grain.
''It would be wrong to associate two companies just because they happen to use the same incorporator or the same registered service,'' he said. As to the DEA report, Etra said that it is based upon ``unfounded allegations.''
The seized cash found inside a valise carried by Antonini at the Buenos Aires airport led to the resignation last week of Claudio Uberti, a senior Argentine government official who accompanied him on the chartered flight.
Uberti was the head of the Argentine agency that controls toll roads and was the main Argentine negotiator in several trade and investment agreements between Argentina and Venezuela.
On Monday, media reports out of Caracas and Buenos Aires said authorities were also seeking the resignation of Diego Uzcátegui Matheus, president of the Argentine subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PDVSA. His son allegedly invited Antonini on the chartered flight. In Caracas, PDVSA said it had begun an investigation into the ''circumstances and eventual responsibilities'' of the company officials who accompanied Antonini on the flight.
Still unclear is why Antonini was carrying the cash and why it was not declared as Argentine law requires. His brief detention sparked speculation in the media and political circles in Buenos Aires and Caracas that the money was for the presidential campaign of Argentine President Néstor Kirchner's wife, Cristina. It also came amid a string of corruption scandals buffeting Kirchner's government.
Miami Herald translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.