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First arrest warrant in money stashed suitcase scandal

Friday, August 17th 2007 - 21:00 UTC
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International arrest for Antonini Wilson International arrest for Antonini Wilson

Argentine Economic Crimes Federal Judge Marta Novatti issued Thursday an international arrest warrant for Venezuelan businessman Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson who last August 4th tried to illegally introduce in Buenos Aires, traveling on an Argentine government chartered jet, a suitcase containing almost 800,000 US dollars in cash.

Last Monday Argentine prosecutor Maria Luz Rivas Diez issued a first request allegedly for contraband arguing Antonini abandoned Argentina and didn't constitute any legal address for judicial purposes. Antonini arrived last Saturday early morning in a private jet chartered by the Argentine energy company Enarsa together with three Argentine officials and three Venezuelans from that country's oil company, PVDSA. A routine Customs check discovered the suitcase stashed with the money. The businessman was temporarily detained in Buenos Aires airport but then left for Uruguay. From there, he proceeded to Key Biscayne, Florida, where he has a residence, according to the Argentine press. Argentine President Nestor Kirchner on Monday fired his trusted official Claudio Uberti who allowed Antonini on board, and on Wednesday the Hugo Chavez government did something similar with PVDSA Vice president Diego Uzcategui Matheus signaled as the man who requested Antonini's free ride. Meantime Antonini's attorney in Buenos Aires Héctor Vidal Albarracín announced he would not defend his client because "the relevant requirements were not met". The case of Antonini Wilson "has acquired an entirely political stance that prevents any technical-legal defense" said Vidal Albarracín in a press release. The lawyer last Tuesday has promised prosecutor Rivas Diez that businessman Antonini would appear in court in the event of being summoned, because he thought his client was "only wanted for a customs offense". Apparently Mr Antonini on arriving in Buenos Aires alleged to Customs officials he was a member of President Hugo Chavez advance delegation who visited Argentina the following Tuesday. This was strongly denied by the delegation. However it has now emerged that Mr Antonini was a regular visitor of Buenos Aires and Montevideo. In Uruguay he was known to be an "advisor" to a Venezuelan mayor whose local government is involved in the purchase of Uruguayan prefab homes which are exported to Venezuela. The Uruguayan press has full pictures of Antonini visiting the factory. On Wednesday evening Argentine cabinet chief Alberto Fernandez in a television interview suggested that businessman Antonini, and his suitcase stashed with money, final destination was Montevideo. "That's where he's involved apparently in business operations and all his trips through Buenos Aires have ended in Montevideo. We don't know what's his business is, maybe Uruguayan authorities have a better idea", said Alberto Fernandez.

Categories: Politics, Argentina.

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