The Venezuelans arrested are Carlos Kauffmann, Moisés Maionica, and Franklin Durán. Uruguayan citizen Rodolfo Edgardo Wanseele Paciello was also arrested, while a fifth suspect is on the run
Three Venezuelans and a Uruguayan national were arrested Wednesday night by the United States Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI). They were accused of conspiring to act as agents of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela within the United States, without prior notification to the Attorney General of the United States, as required by law, according to Venezuelan local news channel Globovisión.
The Venezuelans arrested are Carlos Kauffmann, Moisés Maionica and Franklin Durán. Uruguayan citizen Rodolfo Edgardo Wanseele Paciello was also arrested.
The detention was announced by Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for Justice Department's National Security Division, R. Alexander Acosta, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office.
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of ten (10) years imprisonment and a USD 250,000 fine.
Based on the criminal complaint, the defendants combined, confederated, conspired and held a number of meetings, from in or about August 2007 to the present, in the Southern District of Florida, with Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, seeking his help to conceal the origin of a USD 800,000 contribution intended to fund the electoral campaign of a candidate taking part in the Argentinean presidential election celebrated recently.
On August 4, 2007, Antonini, onboard a Cessna Citation bearing registration number N5113S, traveled from Venezuela together with other eight individuals to Argentina. The Argentinean Customs Service conducted a search of a piece of luggage being carried by Antonini and found approximately USD 800,000. The Argentinean authorities confiscated the money and Antonini went back home in Florida.
"The complaint describes an alleged plot by Venezuelan government agents to manipulate a US citizen in order to conceal an escalating international scandal," said Wainstein.
Meanwhile, in his affidavit, FBI Special Agent Michael J. Lasiewicki, who is in charge of the case, said that, based on his investigations, Franklin Durán advised Antonini that authorities in both Argentina and Venezuela would pursue Antonini, if Antonini said that the seized funds did not belong to him (Antonini). Carlos Kauffmann advised Antonini that the consequences of Antonini's future actions might put the life of Antonini's children at risk. Moisés Maionica advised Antonini that Venezuelan state oil firm Pdvsa would pay for all the expenses and financial penalties that Antonini might incur as a result of the seizure of the USD 800,000.
In another paragraph in the complaint, Lasiewicki claims that on August 29, 2007, Durán spoke on the telephone with Antonini and requested that Antonini electronically transmit a power of attorney to him. Durán assured Antonini that the matter was being handled at "the top of the Venezuelan government." Further, Maionica reportedly advised Antonini that he was given his mission by the Office of the Vice-President of Venezuela and the Directorate of Intelligence and Preventive Services (Disip).
FM Maduro: "This is a maneuver"
The Venezuelan government described the criminal procedure filed in Miami as a maneuver against President Hugo Chávez and progressive governments in Latin America.
"This is a hopeless effort by the United States Government, which is using sensitive mechanisms of the judiciary to wage a political, psychological and media war against the progressive governments in the continent," said Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolás Maduro, as quoted by Efe.
Meanwhile, in Buenos Aires, the Argentinean Presidency's Spokesman claimed it did not have information about the case. "We have no idea. We are going to get information," an official who spoke under condition of anonymity told AP.
Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.
SEE THE SPECIAL FEATURE ON THE SUITCASE SCANDAL AT: