Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Kenneth Wainstein and the man wanted by Interpol

Posted by Charles II on December 15, 2007

Ah. It’s Kenneth Wainstein Day. He pops up again, this time in an investigation of an alleged payoff to the newly elected Cristina Fernández de Kirchner government of Argentina.

The story, via David Brooks of La Jornada (not the NYT’s Bobo Brooks) or Kirchgaessner and Dombey of the FT,  seems unlikely. On August 4th, a Cessna Citation carrying 8 passengers landed in Buenos Aires. One of the passengers, a US citizen, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, was in the possession of 800,000 dollars. Wilson was shipped back to Miami.  The criminal complaint alleges that Moisés Maionica, Antonio José Canchita Gómez, Rodolfo Edgardo Wanseele Paciello, Franklin Durán and Carlos Kauffmann conspired with Antonini regarding the payoff. Antonini was not charged.

On August 17th, Durán, Kauffmann, Maionica entered Miami. On the 23rd, they, and an unidentified man met with Antonini in Ft. Lauderdale. There, Durán allegedly revealed that Cristina Fernández was the intended recipient of the money.  Durán supposedly claimed to have met with high Venezuelan officials, who told him that things could get nasty for Antonini unless he declared that the money was theirs. Kauffman allegedly said that Antonini’s kids could be harmed. Maionica promised that Venezuela would pay all the costs.

The lawyer for Kauffman and D calls the charges “ridiculous,” saying they’re oil men:  “Mr Hacker suggested his clients were being targeted by prosecutors because of a lawsuit they filed against a US bank last week that alleged that it had expropriated millions of dollars from them. The lawsuit accused the bank of closing an account holding $25m without the individuals’ permission.”

Here are some questions to ponder. First, consider how rich it is for the US to be claiming it has to prosecute intervention in foreign elections.

Second, why on earth would Antonini not be charged? If he were not charged, why would anyone approaching him imagine that he hadn’t flipped? Who was the unidentified man? If he wasn’t charged, he was presumably a DoJ employee. Why didn’t his presence make the others suspicious?

Third, 800,000 dollars is a fair amount of money, especially since the largest denomination generally available is $100. If each bill weighed a gram, that would be 800 kg (360 lbs) of money. If each bill is 100 microns thick, 800,000 would be a stack 80 meters (260 ft.) tall. Kind of hard to hide amid the shaving cream and the toothpaste. The guy expected to walk through customs with that? How would he even carry it? As CMike points out in comments, I missed a step in the calculation. 800,000 $1 bills would be as described. But 8,000 $100 bills would be a more manageable amount: 8 kg and 0.8 meters high. It’s still pretty noticeable, and difficult to believe that someone would expect to get through customs.

And, as Brooks points out, it’s a pretty weird story in other ways. Antonini is apparently being sought by Interpol at the behest of Argentina, who accuses him of fraud. Durán, Kauffmann, and Maionica are buddies of Antonini, and they all own posh houses.

Duran is, according to the Miami Herald, a centimillionaire and ” co-owner of the most prosperous lubricants company in Venezuela and an arms seller to the national and regional governments in his country,” while Kauffmann is “vice president of Caracas-based Industrias Venoco.”

Just the kind of guys that one would expect to find in a barbershop quartet singing The Internationale with Chavez and Castro, right? 

This is a very interesting story, not the least aspect of which is the involvement of one Mr. Kenneth Wainstein. 

4 Responses to “Kenneth Wainstein and the man wanted by Interpol”

  1. CMike said

    Recheck your calculations. We’ve all handled a bundle of cash I suppose even if we have not handled a bundle of hundreds. A bundle of $100s is worth $10,000 therefore 80 bundles of hundreds equal $800,000. Needless to say one bundle of bills does not weigh four plus pounds, nor does it stand one meter tall.

  2. Charles said

    CMike, thanks for the correction.

  3. Emptywheel looks at this story and smells a setup: http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2007/12/14/the-venezuela-bust/

  4. Charles said

    Ah, Marcy. Such a sharp mind.

    Yes, it’s very puzzling that they would fly back from Venezuela to threaten Antonini into silence and then tell him who he had been delivering the money to.

    Sounds like another Regent Law graduate made this case.

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