December 01, 2008
A Venezuelan lawyer who worked with his government's spy agency to cover up an $800,000 cash campaign donation to Argentina's president was sentenced Monday afternoon in Miami federal court to two years in prison on charges of being an illegal foreign agent.
Moises Maionica, 37, pleaded guilty in January to charges of conspiring and acting as an unregistered agent for the Venezuelan government. He faced up to 15 years in prison, but received the shorter sentence for his cooperation in the case. He also was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.
Maionica, a corporate lawyer who has been detained since his arrest a year ago, testified this fall against wealthy Venezuelan businessman Franklin Durán in his trial on the same charges. Durán was found guilty.
Maionica was the first to flip among five defendants implicated in the plot to cover up the Venezuela government's role in the highly controversial election donation to then-candidate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
News of the donation spread soon after a suitcase stuffed with the cash was confiscated by Argentine authorities from a passenger on a chartered plane that had flown from Caracas to Buenos Aires in August 2007.
A hemispheric political scandal escalated when U.S. authorities charged Maionica and four other men last December with plotting to silence the passenger, a Key Biscayne businessman named Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, who is wanted on related customs charges in Argentina.
Two other defendants cut plea deals in addition to Maionica. One defendant is still at large.
In court, federal prosecutors stirred up intrigue with these allegations:
• The governments of Argentina and Venezuela collaborated in the coverup.
• The cash-filled suitcase was meant for Fernández, who was then campaigning for president.
• The cash belonged to national oil giant Petróleos de Venezuela, which chartered the flight.
According to court records, Maionica received a call from the director of the Venezuelan intelligence agency known as DISIP to join the conspiracy after the cash was seized from Antonini by security officials in Argentina.