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Cablegate: Argentine Police Agent Claims Fbi Offered Her

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1380/01 2821658
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 081658Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2190
INFO RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1882

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001380

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FBI PASS TO DEPUTY DIRECTOR PISTOLE AND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
FUENTES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KJUS KCRM AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE POLICE AGENT CLAIMS FBI OFFERED HER
ASYLUM AND WORK IN ADVANCE OF HER APPEARANCE IN MIAMI TRIAL

REF: BUENOS AIRES 1300 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Argentina's largest circulation newspaper
"Clarin" and other media outlets (including television and
radio) reported that former airport police agent Maria del
Lujan Telpuk claimed the FBI had offered her "political
asylum" and help in getting "work," presumably in exchange
for altering her testimony in U.S. court. The story also
contains alleged counter-claims on the airport conversation
by an FBI official. Argentine Minister of Justice Anibal
Fernandez took to the airwaves October 8 to question the
FBI's attempted "bribery" and its failure to advise Telpuk
that she could remain silent. Media coverage in Argentina of
Telpuk's allegations is unfortunately damaging the Embassy's
position on the independence of judicial processes in the
U.S. End summary.

2. (SBU) Telpuk is the former Argentine airport police agent
who intercepted the infamous cash-filled suitcase brought into
Argentine Customs by Venezuelan-American dual national Guido
Alejandro Antonini-Wilson and others at a Buenos Aires airport
on August 4, 2007. After testifying October 7 in the Miami
trial of alleged Venezuelan agent Franklin Duran, Telpuk told
"Clarin" (http://www.clarin.com/diario/2008/10/08/elpa is/
p-01776719.htm) that upon arrival at Miami International Airport
on September 28, she was intercepted by several FBI officials who
interviewed her at the airport for two hours. Telpuk said of the
FBI approach: "Between my being scared and exhausted from not
having slept at all during the overnight flight, I did not dare to
refuse them the interview. I noticed they separated me from my
companion."

3. (SBU) "They told me that, if during my stay in Miami it
became apparent that returning to Argentina would be
complicated, for fear or whatever, they could eventually
offer me political asylum. And what they did offer me was
help in getting a job. They gave me the address of a very
important Miami modeling agency and they told me to take my
photos there and that things would go very well there. They
treated me, or at least they made themselves out to be, very
nice at all times."

4. (SBU) Telpuk said she was certain that if she had accepted
the FBI offers of asylum and work, "some request would have
been made in exchange." She said she was certain the FBI did
not want her to testify against Antonini or was seeking to
discredit her. She said she became indignant by the
prosecution's line of questioning during her
cross-examination, making her feel like asking for legal
counsel.

5. (SBU) The Clarin article also cites an unnamed "FBI agent"
who "explained that the conversation at the airport wasn't
illegal because Telpuk spoke voluntarily and was not detained
or arrested." No other Argentine media included this alleged
comment by an FBI official. (Comment: The Clarin
correspondent bylined on the story, Ana Baron, has a
reputation for making things up, but she's also an aggressive
journalist who charges after stories.)

6. (SBU) Although other media focused more on Telpuk's
assertion in court that Argentine Customs official Jorge
Lamastra had urged her to waive inspection of all the luggage
that arrived August 4, 2007 on the GOA-chartered flight that
brought the infamous suitcase stuffed with $800,000, they
also covered her statements about her September 28 two-hour
FBI interview (noting that Duran's defense attorney termed it
an "interrogation"). Two dailies, Pagina 12 and Critica,
carried the alleged work offer on the front page.

7. (SBU) According to Buenos Aires newspaper-of-record "La
Nacion" (http://www.lanacion.com.ar
/nota.asp?nota id 1057241), Telpuk testified in court that
FBI officials approached her at the airport, showed her their
credentials and said they wanted to have a conversation with
her. "I had just arrived in Miami and scared by it all, I
did not refuse to answer. I was taken by surprise because I
never imagined that I would be interviewed by the FBI," she
recalled. "La Nacion" reported that, encouraged by defense
attorney Shohat's line of questioning, Telpuk said in court
that the FBI did not show her a copy of her statement, did
not tell her she was free to withdraw from the interview
whenever she wanted, and did not tell her she had the option
of refusing to answer any of the questions. "La Nacion"
noted that she confirmed to the prosecutor that at the
conclusion of the interview she said goodbye to the FBI
officials with a hug and a kiss for each. "That is my
custom," she answered.

8. (SBU) Argentine Minister of Justice Anibal Fernandez took
to the airwaves October 8 to question the FBI's attempted
"bribery" and its failure to advise TElpuk that she could
remain silent. He is quoted saying that "this woman is
invited to testify for the defense and, when she got there,
the FBI grabbed her. No one told her she had the right to
remain silent? In Argentina, that would not have happened
and those agents would be jailed. They offered Telpuk work
and asylum, and that is a form of bribery." Fernandez
reiterated his previous assertions that U.S. prosecutors are
appointed for political reasons and are "capable of trying to
influence what happens. The irregularity of the situation to
stain the name of Argentina is clear," concluded Fernandez.

9. (SBU) Comment: Unfortunately, Telpuk's statements in
court and to the media feed the impression that the USG was
seeking to influence a witness. The intense media coverage
of her allegations here is damaging to the Embassy's position
on judicial independence and is providing fodder for the
GOA's contentions of an FBI conspiracy against it. From our
vantage point, it would be useful to rebut Telpuk's claim
that she was offered a quid pro quo in exchange for favorable
testimony.
WAYNE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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