Two Venezuelan citizens linked to the frustrated attempt to illegally introduce a suitcase with 800.000 US dollars to Argentina have an international Interpol arrest warrant following on a request from the Argentine judge who has the case.
Diego Uzcategui Matheus and his son Daniel Uzcategui Spech last week for the fourth time running ignored a summons from Argentine Judge Daniel Petrone who then ordered their international arrest. Father and son are accused of complicity with another Venezuelan citizen, Guido Alejandro Antonini, currently under protection in Miami since he has a dual nationality, of trying to introduce a brief case containing 800.000 US dollars, last August, through Ezeiza airport. They are all formally accused of money laundering. The private jet rented by officials from Argentina's Energy Corporation arrived from Venezuela where the brief case with the money was taken onboard. Daniel Uzcategui, 19, and son of Venezuelan Petroleum Corporation PDVSA Deputy CEO (Diego Uzcategui) was on board the aircraft invited by the Argentine Enarsa officials as was the carrier of the money Antonini on request from Uzcategui Sr. According to the probe into the case in Miami, (Mr. Antonioni on his return to the US was threatened by alleged intelligence officers from the Venezuelan regime of President Hugo Chavez) the money was a contribution from PDVSA to the campaign of then presidential candidate and First Lady Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The other main suspect is the Argentine official, now sacked Claudio Uberti, who officially had a junior post, but was the man then President Kirchner, trusted to manage the sensitive financial and energy relations with the Chavez administration. Judge Petrone originally had titled the probe as "aggravated smuggling" which has a maximum sentence of up to eight years in jail, but later decided for money laundering which in Argentina does not require imprisonment. However prosecutors are appealing his decision. The Uzcateguis, father (also sacked from PDVSA) and son are known to be back in Venezuela, while Uberti so far has been called to testify as a witness. But given the prosecution's appeal and the fact that the Venezuelan connection has fled, he could also be indicted in the case. The case is only beginning to take off in Argentina partly forced by the probe in Miami, where Mr. Antonioni has apparently openly testified in exchange for security, and the four alleged Venezuelans agents who tried to intimidate him not to talk after he left from Argentina, via Uruguay last August, have also agreed to collaborate with US federal prosecution. The whole incident promises to be a major embarrassment for the Kirchner couple and their close links with President Chavez, and even more harmful could expose abuse and corruption. The Miami trial has been adjourned until next September. Given the repercussions of the whole incident in the US, and in spite of the influence of the Argentine Executive over the Judiciary branch, the case in Argentina has begun to move and it is possible some brave prosecutors and magistrates could surface interesting facts about the inner workings of the Kirchners' political machine. La Nacion from Buenos Aires has published that Mr. Uberti between August 2 and 7 (Antonioni and the stashed money were forfeited August 4) made 589 calls and 98 text messages mostly to government offices, Venezuelan diplomats, political leaders and government contractors plus to a heart specialist. The list includes 4 calls to Olivos (Presidential residence); 2 to the presidential office in Casa Rosada; 30 to the Presidency Secretariat; 50 to the Federal Planning Office that is responsible for energy in Argentina; 44 to the Ministry of Economy; 50 times to the Trade attaché of the Venezuelan embassy, 18 of them after Antonioni was caught; several to the fugitive Uzcategui plus innumerable other calls to political leaders from the ruling coalition, and close to the Kirchners, and companies linked to the Public Works Department.