Thu, Aug 16, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Argentina wants to arrest man for smuggling cash

AP , BUENOS AIRES

An Argentine prosecutor said she is seeking the arrest of a US-based Venezuelan businessman who triggered an international scandal by bringing US$800,000 in undeclared cash into the country on a government chartered flight.

Prosecutor Luz Rivas Diez said on Tuesday that she wants to have Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson detained so he can answer questions about the cash, which was seized by customs authorities at a Buenos Aires airport on Aug. 4.

Argentine authorities said Wilson left the country on Aug. 5, headed for Uruguay, according to Argentine newspaper reports.

His whereabouts were unclear, but he has an apartment in Key Biscayne, Florida.

The businessman arrived with a suitcase filled with cash on an executive jet chartered by Argentina's state energy company just days before Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Argentina and signed debt and energy deals with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner.

Also on the flight were Argentine officials, three employees of the state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) and the son of a PDVSA executive who works in its Argentina office.

The incident has shaken the Argentine government, prompted one Argentine official to resign and led Venezuelan authorities to launch investigations.

Officials so far have given no explanation as to why Wilson had the cash or what sort of business he is in.

Corporate records in the US list Alejandro Antonini, apparently the same man, as an executive of the Florida-based companies Techmilk, Venuz Supply, Global Ads and Foxdelta Investments.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told state television in Caracas that PDVSA has no relationship with Wilson.

He said the state oil company would cooperate with prosecutors as needed.

"It's certainly irregular that our employees were on that plane" and that issue is the subject of a PDVSA internal investigation, Ramirez said.

Rivas Diez told Radio Continental said could seek the arrest of Claudio Uberti, the Argentine official who resigned as head the Argentine agency in charge of the toll roads system in the wake of the scandal.

Uberti was accused of allowing Wilson to join the official Argentine delegation on the flight from Caracas chartered by state-run Energia Argentina.

Rivas Diez must first find a judge to issue the arrest warrants. Two judges have already declined.

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