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WORLD BRIEFING / SOUTH AMERICA

Venezuelan convicted in cash cover-up case

November 04, 2008|Times Wire Reports

A federal jury in Miami convicted a wealthy Venezuelan of acting as an illegal foreign agent and coming to the U.S. to cover up a political scandal involving a cash-stuffed suitcase smuggled into Argentina. Franklin Duran, 41, faces up to 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Duran and other South American men came to Miami on orders of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to ensure the silence of a man who carried a suitcase stuffed with $800,000 into Argentina in 2007. The U.S. said the money was a donation to the campaign of Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Three others previously pleaded guilty, including Duran's business partner, Carlos Kauffmann, 36, who testified against Duran.

Chavez and the Argentine president, who was elected in October 2007, repeatedly denounced the case as politically motivated, a charge U.S. officials denied.

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