August 15, 2007
A Venezuelan businessman who sparked an international scandal by carrying $800,000 in cash is wanted by Argentine authorities.
A prosecutor said Tuesday that she is seeking the arrest of a U.S.-based Venezuelan businessman who triggered an international scandal by bringing $800,000 in undeclared cash into Argentina on a government-chartered flight.
Prosecutor Luz Rivas Diez said she wants to have Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson detained so he can answer questions about the cash, seized by Argentine customs authorities at a Buenos Aires airport on Aug. 4.
Argentine authorities have said Antonini Wilson left the country on Aug. 5, headed for Uruguay, according to Argentine newspaper reports. His whereabouts were unclear, but he has an apartment in Key Biscayne.
The businessman arrived with a suitcase filled with cash on an executive jet chartered by Argentina's state energy company just days before Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez visited Argentina and signed debt and energy deals with Argentine President Néstor Kirchner.
Also on the flight were Argentine officials, three employees of Venezuelan state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, and the son of a PDVSA executive who works in its Argentina office.
The incident has shaken the Argentine government, prompted one Argentine official to resign and led Venezuelan authorities to launch investigations. Officials so far have given no explanation as to why Antonini Wilson had the cash or what sort of business he is in.
Corporate records in the United States list Alejandro Antonini, apparently the same man, as an executive of the Florida-based companies Techmilk, Venuz Supply, Global Ads and Foxdelta Investments.
Antonini Wilson owns a three-bedroom condominium in Key Biscayne that has a market value of about $1 million, according to Miami-Dade County records. Venezuelan public records show he is registered to vote at the Venezuelan consulate in Miami.
Some Venezuelans in South Florida opposed to President Hugo Chávez urged U.S. authorities to investigate whether Antonini had violated U.S. money laundering or other laws.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez told state television in Caracas that PDVSA has no relationship with Antonini Wilson. He said the state oil company would cooperate with prosecutors as needed. Venezuelan officials say Antonini Wilson also holds U.S. citizenship