- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — The American-Venezuelan businessman whose cash-filled suitcase set off a scandal that has rattled two governments is willing to cooperate with investigators, his attorney said in a report published yesterday.

Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson is willing to testify about the nearly $800,000 in cash he brought into Argentina from Venezuela aboard a plane chartered by Argentina’s state energy company, his attorney Hector Vidal Albarracin told the daily La Nacion.

Mr. Antonini Wilson arrived Aug. 4 with a suitcase filled with cash. He left the undeclared cash with customs officials, who did not try to arrest him, and vanished. Neither Mr. Antonini Wilson nor anyone else on the plane has revealed the source or the purpose of the money.

The fact that officials of both countries accompanied Mr. Antonini Wilson has shaken President Nestor Kirchner’s government at a time when his wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is running to replace him as president and has cast a shadow over the socialist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Tuesday, an Argentine prosecutor said she was seeking an arrest warrant for Mr. Antonini Wilson, though no judge has ruled on the request.

“There is no need to take out an arrest warrant,” Mr. Vidal Albarracin told the newspaper. He said his client was not a fugitive but had left Argentina “because there was no restriction against his doing so.”

Mr. Vidal Albarracin said he was in contact with the businessman in Florida, where the dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen has an apartment in Key Biscayne.

The attorney said the businessmen has indicated he was ready to testify if called to do so.

Mr. Antonini Wilson arrived in Buenos Aires on a flight carrying Argentine officials, three employees of Venezuela’s state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, and Daniel Uzcategui Spetch, the son of the president of PDVSA’s Argentine unit, Diego Uzcategui Matheus.

Venezuelan officials have denied any relation between Mr. Antonini Wilson and PDVSA or the Chavez government.

But Argentina’s Clarin newspaper reported yesterday that Mr. Antonini Wilson made three earlier trips to Argentina and newspapers carried photos of him in the company of a pro-Chavez governor on a trip to Uruguay.

Uruguay’s prominent Radio Espectador reported Tuesday that PDVSA had reserved and paid for Mr. Antonini Wilson’s hotel rooms when he made several recent trips to Uruguay. PDVSA’s Uruguay unit and the Venezuelan Embassy in Uruguay said they would have no comment on the report.

The incident forced one Argentine official to resign for permitting Mr. Antonini Wilson to ride on the plane.

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