Venezuela Officials Received Kickbacks, U.S. Lawyers Claim

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The New York Sun

Venezuelan government officials received kickbacks in schemes involving the country’s bonds, state oil company and National Guard, American prosecutors said before the trial of a Venezuelan businessman.

Franklin Duran and his business partner, Carlos Kauffmann, funneled the kickbacks to officials in the government of President Chavez for more than eight years, prosecutors said yesterday in a filing in federal court in Miami. Mr. Duran is scheduled for a September 2 trial on charges he acted in America as an unregistered agent for Venezuela.

“Franklin Duran and Carlos Kauffmann amassed their financial wealth by doing the bidding of officials of the government of Venezuela,” prosecutors wrote. “Proof that Duran and Kauffmann jointly and improperly conspired” with Venezuelan officials contradicts Mr. Duran’s likely argument that “his actions have been simply misinterpreted,” according to the filing.

Kauffmann already has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Duran. Both were arrested December 11 on charges that they conspired to silence Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, a Florida businessman who was caught bringing $800,000 in cash into an Argentine airport last August.

American prosecutors say the two men were acting at the direction of the Venezuelan intelligence agency when they tried to pressure Mr. Antonini to tell no one that the cash was destined for the election campaign of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She was elected president of Argentina on October 28.

The kickback claims weren’t included in a December 20 indictment of Mr. Duran, Kauffmann, and three other South American men. Edward Shohat, a lawyer for Mr. Duran, denied the allegations made in yesterday’s filing.

The New York Sun

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