The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part III: Let the Duran trial and the fireworks begin!

September 9, 2008

(In Spanish here, en español aqui)

It was the first actual day of the Maletagate trial in Miami and both the
prosecution and the defense began their arguments. The fireworks have begun and
it is clear that there will be interesting revelations in the upcoming days if
the initial skirmishes are any indication.

Prosecutor Thomas Mulvihill presented his case and said the money carried
by Guido Antonini into Argentina, in the suitcase in the PDVSA leased airplane,
was a favor to accused Franklin Duran and that Duran himself had told Antonini that
the money
was intended for the campaign of Argentinean President Cristina
Kirschner. The Prosecution also charged that the money came from PDVSA.

Prosecutor Mulvihill sad he would present tapes showing not
only that Duran and friends were acting as agents of the Venezuelan Government,
but that they called Guido Antonini in Miami from the headquarters of the
Venezuelan Intelligence police (DISIP). He added that there was a strong
participation of the Venezuelan Intelligence police in the case all the way up
to its Director
Henry Rangel Silva.

Duran’s defense countered by saying that it was
Antonini who asked Duran and his brother Pedro to give him a hand in the case
and that they went to the now Minister of the Interior and Justice Tarek Al
Aissami, seeking for assistance, but that Duran never contacted the Head of the
DISIP whom he does not know and never tried to force Antonini to lie.The defense also said that Duran told Antonini to get a lwayer in Argentian to defend him in that country.

The defense tried to put the blame on Antonini seeking a
solution to the case and charged that Guido Antonini tried to cover up the
facts and was
requesting
that the Venezuelan Government pay him US$ 2 million in order to
cover up the case. He charged that Antonini wrote a letter to President Hugo
Chavez under the coaching of the FBI requesting the money and that such letter was sent to the President via the Venezuelan Consul in Miami.

The defense suggested the case was simply political in order
to make the Hugo Chavez Government look bad by turning the case of a friend
trying to help another into a case of spying.

The first witness in the case was one of the accused men who
pleaded guilty, lawyer Moises Maionica. Maionica, know to have strong ties to
then Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez (He was the lawyer for fingerprint company Cogent),
testified
that initially the case was left in the hands of PDVSA President
Rafael Ramirez, but he was later relieved of his control of the situation.

According to Maionica’s testimony, Hugo Chavez directly
assigned the task of dealing with the problem to the DISIP and that Rangel Silva, the DISIP
Director told him the President was upset about the matter from an operational
point of view.

Meanwhile in Caracas, newly appointed Minister of the
Interior and Justice (sic), said he would not respond
to the garbage of the US Empire and that “he has held many positions but it is
only now that he is in charge of the Ministry this campaign begins…less than 24
hours after being named, this garbage comes out” I guess the Minister does not read
this blog, which published the information that he would be involved in the
case, well before anyone knew he would be appointed Minister.

Thus, the first day began with lots of fireworks on both
sides. It is clear that Duran’s strategy is to say he was helping a friend, but
he does not intend to help the Venezuelan Government in the process. The
Prosecution, on the other hand, seems to have a lot of evidence in the form of
tapes and the like which could severely bring into question the arguments of
the defense.

Stay tuned!!!

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