The oral trial for the suitcase scandal of Venezuelan Guido Antonini Wilson ended this morning with the last words of the accused. The Oral Economic Criminal Court 1 will announce the verdict at 1 pm.
The hearing started after 9:30 and the president of the court gave all the accused a chance to express themselves. The first to speak was Claudio Uberti, the only passenger on the plane who went to the test. “From the first moment I voluntarily put myself at the mercy of Justice. It has been proven that I had no participation in the events, everything is a rumor,” he said.
The other defendants also pleaded not guilty. “This is a political issue. They brought us to trial for fulfilling our obligations,” said Guillermo David Lucangeli, one of the accused customs officials. Meanwhile, María Cristina Gallini complained about the progress of investigation: “I am not guilty. 16 years later, they have done so much damage to us and our families. “We did the right thing.”
The event happened on August 4, 2007, in the middle of the presidential campaign. That morning, a plane chartered by the company Energía Argentina SA (ENARSA) landed at the Aeroparque with eight passengers: the Venezuelan businessman, Uberti, his secretary Victoria Bereziuk, the former head of ENARSA Ezequiel Espinosa, Daniel David Uzcátegui Specht, Ruth Begrends Ramírez, Nelly Cardozo Sánchez, and Wilfredo Ávila Driet. Of all of them, the only one facing trial was Uberti.
Uberti pleads not guilty in court (Maximiliano Luna)
Antonini Wilson arrived at the baggage control with a suitcase of almost 800 thousand dollars. The maneuver was discovered by María de Luján Telpuk, then a PSA agent. To the first question, Antonini Wilson answered that he brought books. Telpuk insisted and assured the Venezuelan that he was carrying “papers or pieces of paper.” At that moment, the PSA agent decided to open the suitcase and discovered the money. “How much money do you have?” is the obligatory question. “About USD 60,000,” the Venezuelan would have replied.
After the episode, Antonini Wilson participated in an event at the Casa Rosada and returned to Miami. Néstor Kirchner’s government tried several emissaries to get the Venezuelans to get the money and pay the fines. But they did not convince him. Since then, the Argentine justice system has unsuccessfully sought his extradition to the United States authorities.
It has always been suspected that the money brought by Antonini Wilson was sent by the then president of Venezuela to finance the campaign of Cristina Kirchner, as stated by the Venezuelan in the United States. This assumption was not proven in the local trial although the Prosecutor’s Office said that “the money came from the coffers of PDVSA,” the state oil company.
De Vido before the hearing (Maximiliano Luna)
During his argument, prosecutor Marcelo Agüero Vera maintained that during the trial it was proven that the Venezuelan businessman tried to enter the suitcase “at the request of Uberti” and “at the order of (Julio) De Vido.” In addition, he said that the former officials “believed that there were no controls and that the suitcase would not be found.”
For this, he requested that the former Minister of Planning be sentenced to 5 years for the crime of attempted smuggling. And for Uberti he asked for a sentence of 4 years and 10 months. Instead, he decided not to accuse the former head of Customs, Ricardo Echegaray, who was accused of a cover-up.
The former head of the Road Concessions Control Body (OCCOVI) stated at trial that he saw the Venezuelan three times: at lunch, in Caracas, before the flight back to Buenos Aires, then on the plane, and finally at Home. , on the occasion of the visit of former president Hugo Chávez.
Ricardo Echegaray with his lawyer (Maximiliano Luna)
However, for the Prosecutor’s Office there was a previous relationship between the two. During the dispute, a call was discussed between Uberti’s secretary, Victoria Bereziuk, and Antonini Wilson, on May 30, 2007, and a suspicious annotation in an agenda in the office of the former official, which reported an alleged meeting with businessman in Buenos Aires. “Claudio Uberti allowed him to get on the plane and was one of the main interested parties so that the money reached its destination unchecked,” said the Prosecutor’s Office.
It was also emphasized that there were many communications between Uberti and Antonini Wilson, after the scandal, through a “bridge” made by his secretary, through his cell phone.
The investigation lasted 13 years and is about to end. It turns out that Uberti has been ruled without merit for a decade. When the case was dismissed, Judge Pablo Yadarola charged Julio De Vido and Ricardo Echegaray, who, due to their status as former officials, were able to extend the statute of limitations. At that time, Victoria Bereziuk (later dismissed by the Chamber), the former head of ENARSA Exequiel Espinosa, and customs officials were also charged.
The other four defendants who appeared in the trial are customs officials: Rosa Nélida García, Guillermo David Lucangeli, María Cristina Gallini and Jorge Félix Lamastra.