Miami Herald / El Nuevo Herald
August 21, 2007
The Key Biscayne Venezuelan stopped with $800,000 in cash when he arrived at a Buenos Aires airport claimed he was ordered to make the trip during a lunch with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Argentine news media reported.
Venezuelan officials have steadily denied any government links to the Aug. 4 trip by Guido Alejandro Antonini, who has not explained the undeclared $800,000. He left the country after the incident.
Horacio Verbitsky, a well-known Buenos Aires journalist, reported that an Argentine customs official told the judge investigating the case that Antonini claimed upon his arrival in Buenos Aires that he had been ordered to make the trip during an Aug. 3 lunch with Chávez in Caracas.
Venezuelan Communications Minister William Lara flatly denied that version, offering a detailed chronology of Chávez's movements on the day in question to show Antonini could not have lunched with the president.
Argentine Customs officials and police agents at Jorge Newberry Airport in Buenos Aires questioned Antonini when he arrived on a chartered flight with oil company executives from Venezuela and Argentina.
The Argentine television station America TV reported a version similar to Verbitsky's and attributed it to a statement by Daniel Ingross, a police officer at Newberry Airport.
America TV reported that Ingross told the judge that a visibly cold Antonini, arriving in the middle of the southern hemisphere's winter, said he had not had time to pack winter clothes ``because when he arrived in Caracas from Miami he had to go to a luncheon with President Chávez and there he was told he would have to travel to Buenos Aires.''
Argentine Judge Marta Novatti has issued a national and international arrest warrant for Antonini on smuggling charges. Antonini, in his only public comments to date, has said that he has an explanation for the money.