Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A suitcase with legs

First Guido Wilson got caught hauling it to Argentina (see previous KPC coverage here and here). Then in Miami, some Venezuelans got caught on tape alternatively bribing and threatening Mr. Wilson to take responsibility for its contents. Now in the trial of Franklin Duran (the only threatener who didn't take a plea), Hugo Chavez has, for the first time, been directly linked to the case:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was personally involved in covering up his nation's role in an Argentine election scandal, according to an FBI statement by a Venezuelan witness who may testify at a criminal trial in Miami.ranklin Duran faces trial on U.S. charges he acted as an unregistered agent of Chavez's government. Duran conspired to silence a Florida businessman who toted $800,000 in a suitcase from Caracas to Buenos Aires, according to U.S. prosecutors. The Justice Department alleged the cash, seized Aug. 4, was intended for the campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who was elected Argentina's president Oct. 28.

Duran, 40, was arrested Dec. 11 with two other Venezuelans, Carlos Kauffmann and Moises Maionica. Kauffmann and Maionica pleaded guilty and said in court that their country's intelligence agency, known as DISIP, played a central role in the cover-up of the payment.

In papers filed June 27, Duran said Kauffmann's FBI statement implicated Chavez. Kauffmann told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that ``Maionica told him and others that President Chavez was involved in the matter and had put DISIP Director Rangel Silva in charge, and that Rangel told him that President Chavez personally was involved in the matter,'' according to the motion in federal court in Miami.

Previous court filings didn't directly implicate Chavez in the case, known as the ``suitcase scandal'' in Argentina. U.S. prosecutors have filed court papers saying that DISIP and the office of Venezuela's vice president oversaw the plot.

While this is fun, I don't expect it to actually hurt Chavez at home in Venezuela. What amazes me a bit is how the Kirchners have so successfully dodged this bullet back in Argentina!