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Bag Man Says FBI Told Him to Ask for $2M Hush Money

•  Recent Cases     updated  2008/09/29 09:12


A bag man testified on Friday that he was following FBI instructions when he asked the government of Venezuela for $2 million in hush money, after he was caught carrying $800,000 in a briefcase intended, according to prosecutors, for Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in her campaign to become president of Argentina.

Guido Antonini, who was caught with the money, is now cooperating with federal prosecutors. He testified in Federal Court in Miami against Franklin Duran, who is accused of being an unregistered foreign agent in America.

Antonini was detained in August 2007 at a Buenos Aires airport. Antonini confirmed in his testimony on Thursday and Friady that he asked the government of Venezuela for $2 million in hush money, claiming he wanted it for legal expenses and other debt he would incur as a result of being caught with the $800,000.

In the trial before U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard, Antonini also testified that he told Duran he would not accept the money directly from Duran, that the money had to come from the Venezuelan government.

Antonini wore a wire during his conversations with Duran, according to the testimony. In one of the taped conversations used in court, Antonini is refusing $2 million in hush money directly from Duran. He says he wants to receive the money directly from the Venezuelan government.

But Duran answers that the Venezuelans won't go for that because they don't trust him, thehy think he is working with the FBI. The two men never spoke again after that conversation.

Duran's defense lawyer, Edward Shohat from Bierman Shohat Loewy & Klein, suggested that when Antonini pressured Venezuela to accept the hush money offer on his terms, he committed extortion.

Antonini replied by saying that he was acting as instructed by the FBI.

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