Miami Man Convicted in $800K Suitcase Scandal

Businessman was Chávez agent, jury says
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2008 8:41 AM CST
A woman kisses fake U.S. dollar bills during a demonstration against alleged corruption within the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, in Caracas, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007.   (AP Photo/Howard Yanes)
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(Newser) – The international political funding scandal known as Suitcasegate took a new, diplomatically fraught turn yesterday when a Miami court convicted a businessman of conspiracy and of acting as an "unregistered agent" of the Venezuelan government. The trial concerns a suitcase filled with $800,000 that was intercepted in Buenos Aires. The US alleges the money was being funneled from Hugo Chávez to Argentina's president, Cristina Kirchner, during her election campaign.

Both Chávez and Kirchner have angrily denied the allegations. But witnesses at the trial testified that the cash came from Venezuela's national oil company, which also chartered a plane from Caracas to Buenos Aires. Also testifying in Miami was the policewoman who discovered the suitcase—and who has since posed for Playboy and appeared on the Argentine version of Dancing With the Stars.