El Nuevo Herald
July 06, 2008
According to court documents, Carlos Kauffman told the FBI that lawyer Moisés Maionica assured him, 'President Chávez was involved' in Venezuela's `briefcase scandal.'
Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez was personally involved in efforts to conceal his nation's participation in the scandal surrounding a briefcase that contained $800,000, according to testimony obtained by the FBI and presented last week in Miami federal court.
The money, confiscated by Argentine customs officials, was allegedly to be a campaign contribution to that nation's current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
According to the court documents submitted on June 27, Venezuelan businessman Franklin Durán declared that his former associate Carlos Kauffman pointed the finger at Chávez during his deposition to the FBI, citing several sources.
Both Durán and Kauffman have been implicated in the case and are accused of acting as unregistered agents of the Venezuelan government.
In his testimony, Kauffman told the FBI that lawyer Moisés Maionica assured him that, ``President Chávez was involved in the matter and that he had placed DISIP [Venezuela's intelligence service] director [Henry] Rangel Silva in charge; and that Rangel told him that President Chávez was personally involved in the case.''
This is the first time that the Venezuelan president has been directly implicated with the briefcase scandal.
Until now, the evidence presented in court only implicated the director of the DISIP and the office of Vice President Jorge Rodríguez.
According to Durán's lawyer, Edward Shohat, Kauffman's testimony implicating Chávez will be used to prove that Durán was acting as an unregistered agent of the Venezuelan government in the United States.
Durán was accused of being an agent of Venezuela, along with Carlos Kauffman, lawyer Moisés Maionica, middle-man Rodolfo Wanseele Pacielo, and Antonio José Canchica Gómez, a suspected agent of the Venezuelan military intelligence service (DIM) who is currently a fugitive.
Durán and Kauffman were partners in what was one of Venezuela's largest distributors of petroleum products, Industrias Venoco CA.
In contrast to Durán, Kauffman made a deal with federal prosecutors and will serve a shortened sentence in exchange for his confession.
Durán is the only one of the four men arrested in the case who has refused to reach a plea bargain with the prosecution. His trial is set for Sept. 2 for acting as an unregistered agent of the Venezuelan government.
Efforts by El Nuevo Herald to reach Shohat, Durán's lawyer, for comment were not successful.
However, according to court documents, Shohat has argued that the case could become ''politicized'' and that the prosecution is using testimony to put the Venezuelan government in an ''embarrassing'' situation.
Kauffman has ''a logical and obvious desire to ingratiate himself'' with the prosecutors, to obtain a substantial reduction of his sentence and avoid the deportation of himself and his family, noted Shohat in court transcripts from last week.
Shohat wrote in a motion he presented in court on Friday that, even if one believed that the United States government doesn't have a ''secret agenda'' for putting the Chávez administration in a tight situation, Kauffman's belief that the United States would like to see Chávez in an ''embarrassing situation'' is a strong motivation to polish his testimony and lie.
According to the motion presented by Durán's lawyer, the prosecution will attempt to present evidence during the trial without any ''real purpose'' except placing the government of Chávez in a difficult position.
El Nuevo Herald was unable to obtain comment from the federal prosecutors assigned to the case.