Venezuelan Given 15 Months in Suitcase of Cash Scandal

Por Venezuela Real - 8 de Diciembre, 2008, 21:50, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

The New York Times
December 08, 2008

A Venezuelan businessman who testified against his friend and former business partner in a South American political scandal involving a suitcase of cash was sentenced Monday by a Miami judge to 15 months in prison on a conspiracy charge.

The businessman, Carlos Kauffmann, 36, was the second government witness in the case to be sentenced. Moisés Maiónica, a Venezuelan lawyer, was sentenced to two years in prison last week after providing what Judge Joan Lenard of United States District Court called “substantial assistance” in the case.

Both men testified against Franklin Durán, a Venezuelan businessman convicted in November of conspiracy and of acting as an unregistered agent of the Venezuelan government. Mr. Durán is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 12.

Prosecutors dropped a second charge against Mr. Kauffmann, of acting as an unregistered agent. Counting time served, he could be free by March.

Mr. Kauffmann and Mr. Maiónica each pleaded guilty and testified at Mr. Durán’s trial. They detailed an elaborate plot by Venezuelan and Argentine officials to cover up the origin and destination of a suitcase containing $800,000, which prosecutors said had been sent by Venezuela’s state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, to the campaign of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner two months before she was elected Argentina’s president.

The case has been a scandal in Argentina and Venezuela since August 2007, when Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, a Venezuelan-American businessman, was caught with the suitcase in a Buenos Aires airport.

The accusations by American investigators have tested relations between the United States and both countries. Mrs. Kirchner and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have accused the United States of political motivation in bringing the case, an accusation American officials have denied.;
Days after he was caught with the suitcase, Mr. Antonini Wilson sought help from the F.B.I. in Florida. Investigators there soon began secretly recording Mr. Kauffmann, Mr. Maiónica and Mr. Durán as they tried to persuade Mr. Antonini Wilson to help cover up the details of the cash shipment.

Mr. Kauffmann and Mr. Maiónica testified that they were working on behalf of Venezuela’s spy agency and that Mr. Chávez himself had directed his spy chief to pay up to $2 million in hush money to Mr. Antonini Wilson.

Four men, including Mr. Kauffmann and Mr. Maiónica, were charged in the case. Three have pleaded guilty; only Mr. Durán elected to go to trial. A fifth suspect, José Canchica, a high-level official with Venezuela’s spy agency, remains a fugitive.

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