MIAMI (CN) - One of two Venezuelan oil millionaires convicted in connection with an Argentinean political scandal claims his Miami civil attorney, who represented both men, used his position to "secure information from, and feed misinformation to the plaintiff for the secret benefit of the preferred client," who got off with a lighter sentence.
The 23-page filing includes allegations that U.S. nemesis Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, meddled in Argentine politics through what became known as the "suitcase scandal." The suitcase contained $800,000.
Franklin Duran sued Mario A. Lamar and his Miami law office, in Miami-Dade County Court, alleging malpractice, fraud and conversion. "The damages in question potentially reach into the millions of dollars," Duran says.
Duran says his complaint "arises from defendants' simultaneous, continuous and persistent legal representation of two clients that had an active and fundamental conflict of interest. In the context of this conflict of interest, defendants successfully feigned the role of honest broker, all the while using his fiduciary position of trust to both, [to] secure information from, and feed misinformation to the plaintiff for the secret benefit of the preferred client and to plaintiff's detriment."
Duran says Lamar represented him and his former business partner, Carlos Kauffman, who testified against him in his criminal case.
Duran served 42 months in prison; Kauffman, who is not a party to this case, did 13 months, according to the complaint.
Duran, a Venezuelan, was convicted in 2008 in Miami for acting as an unregistered agent for his country in a plot to deliver $800,000 in cash to the campaign of Argentinean presidential candidate Christina Fernandez de Kirchner.
Duran claims Kauffman, an exiled Venezuelan living in Miami, cooperated with the prosecution and testified against him in exchange for a lighter sentence and political asylum.
Though they had different criminal attorneys, "M. Lamar simultaneously served as a civil attorney for both Duran and Kauffmann in Florida," according to the complaint. "He did so regarding their joint-worldwide-commercial holdings and transactions for a period of time that began a few months after both men were arrested in connection with the criminal case on December 11, 2007, and continued until shortly after Duran completed his criminal sentence and returned to Key Biscayne in July 2011. Throughout the entire time that defendants continuously represented both men, Kauffmann and Duran had direct, conflicting interests that multiplied and became more acute, obvious, and irreconcilable with the passage of time."
According to the complaint, Duran's and Kauffman's criminal troubles began in 2007 when Argentine customs officials seized $800,000 in cash that Alejandro Antonini was carrying into the country in a briefcase.
"Within days, news of the seizure of the funds was reported in the Venezuelan media, generating a widespread media storm that became known as the 'suitcase scandal.' Various facets of the Venezuelan media claimed that the funds represented a secret donation by the Chavez government to the Argentinean presidential campaign of Cristina Kirchner. Other facets of the Venezuelan media inaccurately attempted to link the money to Industrias Venoco C.A., Venezuela's largest privately held petroleum products company owned jointly by Duran and Kauffmann. This allegation, in turn, created a business problem between Venoco and its principal supplier, PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.), which is an agency of the government of Venezuela," according to the complaint.