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5 men indicted in funds scheme
Question of the Day
Four Venezuelans and a Uruguayan national living in the United States were indicted yesterday in Miami in a scheme to illegally influence the Argentine presidential elections in October by hiding the source of an $800,000 campaign donation to Argentina's new president.
Charged in a federal grand jury indictment are Moises Maionica, 36, Antonio Jose Canchica Gomez, 37, Rodolfo Wanseele Paciello, 40, Franklin Duran, 40, and Carlos Kauffmann, 35. They are accused of acting and conspiring to act as agents of Venezuela within the U.S. without prior notification as required by law.
The indictment said the men took part in meetings in Florida beginning in August and continuing through December with Miami businessman Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, using a variety of tactics to prevent Mr. Antonini from revealing that cash he carried to Argentina came from the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez for the campaign of since-elected Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
It said the intended $800,000 donation was located by Argentine Customs Service agents after Mr. Antonini's luggage was inspected on his arrival in August in Buenos Aires. The Argentine authorities seized the money, and Mr. Antonini returned to his South Florida home.
The indictment said Mr. Antonini and several officials of Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA were on board the charter flight when it arrived in Buenos Aires.
Last week, Mrs. Kirchner dismissed the accusations as "garbage." She said, "Rather than friendly nations, they want subordinate countries."
U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta in Miami said the five men, along with others who were not identified, sought to obtain the assistance of Mr. Antonini in "concealing from the people of Argentina and others, the source and destination and the role of the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the attempted delivery of the approximately $800,000."
At one point during the discussions, Mr. Acosta said Mr. Maionica spoke by phone with a man using the nickname "Arvelo," telling Mr. Antonini that Arvelo was the director of Venezuela's Intelligence and Preventive Services Directorate, known as DISIP, and that he would be calling him.
The indictment did not name DISIP Director General Henry Rangel Silva but said Arvelo called Mr. Antonini on two occasions. It also said Mr. Maionica told Mr. Antonini that DISIP and the Venezuelan vice president's office had brought Mr. Maionica into the case.
According to the indictment, the five men "offered substantial inducements to Antonini, including the payment of money and the preparation of false documents, in attempt to enlist Antonini's assistance in concealing the true source and destination" of the money.
It said the five told Mr. Antonini that various high-ranking Venezuelan government officials, including from the office of the vice president, members of the Intelligence and Preventive Services Directorate, and a high-ranking official from the Venezuelan Justice Ministry were aware of their efforts.
Mr. Antonini is an American citizen who travels under U.S. and Venezuelan passports. Sought for smuggling and money laundering in Argentina, he has been cooperating with U.S. authorities in the ongoing investigation and has not been charged in the United States.
Four of the five were previously arrested on a criminal complaint filed in the case. Mr. Canchica Gomez remains at large. Mr. Maionica, Mr. Duran and Mr. Kauffmann were ordered detained pending trial, and Mr. Wanseele's bond is being appealed by the government.
If convicted, the five each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and fines totaling $250,000.
The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Mulvihill and Senior Trial Attorney Clifford I. Rones.
By Michael Widlanski
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