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Cablegate: Argentine Appeals Court Agrees There Is

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1672 3441954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091954Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2650
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1908
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001672

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SNAR KCOR CJAN AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE APPEALS COURT AGREES THERE IS
INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO PROSECUTE OR ACQUIT UBERTI IN
"VALIJAGATE" CASE

REF: BUENOS AIRES 0946

1. (SBU) An Argentine appeals court upheld the (reftel) July
3 determination by Judge Daniel Petrone that there is not
enough evidence to prosecute or to acquit former Argentine
government official Claudio Uberti in the "Valijagate"
investigation, involving the infamous Venezuelan suitcase
carrying USD 800,000 and seized by Argentine customs in
August 2007. The appeals court also, however, restored the
possible charge of contraband (which Petrone had dropped) as
a line of inquiry for the judicial investigation. Uberti,
the former toll-road regulator and Planning Minister Julio De
Vido's point man in relations with the Venezuelan government,
was fired from his position when it was determined that he
authorized Venezuelan-U.S. national Antonini-Wilson to board
the August 4 flight from Caracas to Buenos Aires. Judge
Petrone has overseen this case since April 22.

2. (SBU) The appeals court, the Chamber for Economic Crimes,
on December 5 also instructed Petrone to continue insisting
on the extradition from the United States of Antonini-Wilson
as well as the extradition from Venezuela of former PDVSA
executive Diego Uzcategui and his son Daniel. "La Nacion"
ran a story December 9 reporting that Argentine Ambassador
Hector Timerman was frustrated in his repeated attempts to
get information from the USG on the status of Argentina's
year-old request for Antonini-Wilson's extradition. "La
Nacion" also claimed that USG officials as well as members
close to the President-elect's transition team spontaneously
acknowledge the pending Antonini-Wilson case as a major
irritant to bilateral relations. According to "La Nacion,"
"the probability that a U.S. judge would extradite Antonini
under current circumstances is very low," considering that
the Kirchners and other GOA officials publicly attacked
Antonini; the Argentine Congress approved a resolution
condemning him and the USG; and questions about the political
independence of the Argentine judge supervising his case.

3. (SBU) The appellate decision means that Uberti remains
under investigation not only for money laundering but for
contraband, a misdemeanor charge that would be easier for
prosecutors to prove than money laundering. "Clarin" also
reported December 7 that the GOA is separately investigating
Uberti for questionable decisions he made in 2003-2004 as
head of OCCOVI, the GOA's toll-road regulating agency.
WAYNE

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