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Cablegate: Argentina: Antonini-Wilson Claims Nestor Kirchner

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1550/01 3172030
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 122030Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2453
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1895
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001550

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SNAR KCOR KLIG CJAN AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: ANTONINI-WILSON CLAIMS NESTOR KIRCHNER
"KNEW EVERYTHING" BUT GOA STAYS MUM

REF: BUENOS AIRES 1522 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary and introduction: Argentine daily "La
Nacion" prominently published November 9 a lengthy exclusive
interview with dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen Guido
Antonini-Wilson (A-W), who was intercepted by GOA authorities
in August 2007 with a suitcase stuffed with $800,000 arriving
on a chartered flight from Caracas. Although much of the
interview rehashed what A-W has said in court in Miami and on
CNN, the interview contained a few newsworthy nuggets,
including A-W's claim that then-GOA official Claudio Uberti
had told him that "Nestor Kirchner (NK) knew everything"
about the incident and that NK said "they were going to back
me up all the way." A-W also claimed that at the airport he
was not allowed to declare that the suitcase belonged to
Uberti; that he signed under duress a statement admitting the
suitcase was his; that Uberti offered to get him a lucrative
GOA beef export license in exchange for his cooperation; and
that a cohort paid airport police officer Maria Lujan Telpuk
a $5,000 bribe. A-W also repeated previous claims, including
that the money in the suitcase came from Venezuelan oil
parastatal PDVSA and was destined for the presidential
campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK); that he
attended a meeting at the Casa Rosada; that he received other
assurances from Uberti; that he was pressured to cooperate
and feared reprisal; and that he overheard discussion of
another $4.2 million on the flight. The Argentine
opposition, led in this instance by Civic Coalition head
Elisa Carrio, seized the opportunity to denounce Kirchner's
direction of illegal activities and announced plans to
present a criminal complaint in hopes of requiring Kirchner
to testify in court. The GOA has not responded to the A-W
interview, but the Argentine magistrate investigating
criminal charges against A-W formally asked the Ministry of
Justice to report on the status of Argentina's request for
the extradition of A-W from the United States. He also asked
the MOH the status of his request for access to evidence
obtained by the U.S. judicial system. We wonder if the time
has come when the suitcase saga finally fades away. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Argentine daily newspaper of record "La Nacion"
carried in its Sunday edition, November 9, a lengthy
"exclusive" interview, starting on page one, with dual
U.S.-Venezuelan citizen Guido Antonini-Wilson (A-W), who was
intercepted by GOA authorities in August 2007 with a suitcase
stuffed with $800,000 arriving on a chartered flight from
Caracas. A-W fled to the United States in August 2007, and
the GOA has a request pending for his extradition. Most
recently he was a key witness in the Miami trial and
conviction of Franklin Duran for acting as an unregistered
agent of the Venezuelan government. La Nacion's interview
with A-W took place in Fort Lauderdale.

3. (SBU) Although much of the interview rehashed what A-W has
said in court in Miami and on CNN, there were some newsworthy
nuggets, including A-W's claim that then-GOA official Claudio
Uberti had told him that "Nestor Kirchner (NK) knew
everything" about the incident and that NK said "they were
going to back me up all the way." A-W said Uberti had told
him, the day after the airport interception, that Kirchner
had asked him about A-W. According to A-W, Kirchner was told
of A-W's stance at the airport, Kirchner allegedly said to
Uberti, "That man is a stud, and since that man backed us up,
we will back him up all the way." A-W said he got the
impression that Uberti told him this "to make me feel party
to the crime." He also claimed that Uberti offered to get
him a lucrative GOA beef export license in exchange for his
cooperation.

4. (SBU) In the interview, A-W also claimed that at the
airport he was not allowed to declare that the suitcase
belonged to Uberti. He said he told several GOA officials at
the airport that the money was not his, and that he
specifically told Argentine Customs officials Jorge Lamastra
and Maria Cristina Gallini that the money belonged to Uberti.
A-W said that, at the insistence of the GOA officials, he
signed a statement admitting the suitcase was his.
Otherwise, he would not have been able to leave the airport.

5. (SBU) A new detail (for us) was A-W's assertion that a
cohort (the 19-year-old son of PDVSA executive Diego
Uzcategui) paid two airport police officers, including Maria
Lujan Telpuk, a $5,000 bribe. (Telpuk later testified in the
Miami trial of Franklin Duran as a defense witness.) A-W
also repeated previous claims, including that the money in
the suitcase came from Venezuelan oil parastatal PDVSA and
was destined for the presidential campaign of Cristina

Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK), that he attended an event at the
Casa Rosada presidential palace, that he received other
assurances from Uberti, that he was pressured to cooperate
and feared reprisal, and that he overheard discussion of
another $4.2 million on the flight.

6. (SBU) In a follow-up story on November 10, "La Nacion"
reported that opposition Civic Coalition leader Elisa Carrio
was planning to file a criminal complaint against Nestor
Kirchner for racketeering. A closer reading of the article
indicates, however, that Carrio's complaint is based
primarily on Kirchner's alleged plan to abscond with private
retirement plans (AFJPs) currently being confiscated by the
GOA, and only indirectly or secondarily for his alleged
involvement with the $800,000 suitcase. Carrio said she
would ask the court to summon Kirchner for a deposition.
Other opposition leaders also seized the opportunity to
denounce Kirchner and call on the courts to investigate his
alleged involvement in illegal activities. Opposition
deputies Carlos Raimundi and Eduardo Macaluse noted they had
doubts about A-W's credibility but thought the GOA still owed
some explanations.

7. (SBU) The GOA has not responded to the A-W interview,
maintaining a reserved silence. This stands in sharp
contrast to previous instances such as November 5, when
Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez called A-W a
"good-for-nothing" who had been paid for his testimony.
However, "La Nacion" reported November 11 that Judge Daniel
Petrone, the Argentine magistrate investigating money
laundering and contraband charges against A-W, had sent a
formal note asking the Ministry of Justice to report on the
status of Argentina's request for the extradition of A-W from
the United States. "La Nacion" noted the extradition request
was over one year old, and that the Argentine courts had
received no response. Petrone also asked the MOJ about his
request for access to evidence obtained by the U.S. judicial
system. "La Nacion" said Petrone was waiting for
authorization to travel to the United States to gather
evidence and interview the "protagonists in the trial of the
Venezuelan (Franklin Duran) who, according to the Miami
courts, tried to silence Antonini." Other media outlets
reported that Argentine Ambassador Hector Timerman had
"again" appealed to the State Department for A-W's
extradition.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) There was little new information in the A-W
interview and related articles, and A-W did little to bolster
his credibility with his defensive and self-serving
recollection of events, but La Nacion's headlines ("Kirchner
knew everything" and "he said they were going to back me all
the way") were provocative enough to make us wonder if there
would be some harsh GOA reaction. Publicly, there has been
none, but we may yet pay a price in private. (Two days
before the A-W interview was published, a high GOA official
told the CDA that he could still offer no new date for
bilateral consultations that had been canceled because "they"
-- the Kirchners -- were still unhappy with what had come out
of the Miami trial.) Judging from the general reaction to
the "La Nacion" interview, we wonder whether the suitcase
saga may be nearing the end of its life cycle, as it seems to
fade from the Argentine public's already-fatigued
consciousness, and the opposition will be hard-pressed to
elicit a judicial investigation by the easily intimidated or
coopted federal court system.

KELLY

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